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What is going on at Costa Coffee?

Diane Hall


Black Forest Gateau

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Edit: After weeks of backlash from the general public, Costa have decided to bring back the Black Forest Hot Chocolate for a limited time. A spokesperson for Costa said "The rumours are true! We heard the nation's cry for its return and as a special Christmas gift, we have brought back the much-loved Black Forest Hot Chocolate."

Traditions are rife during the festive period. Every family has its own way of doing things, whether this is hanging stockings on the fireplace, seeing in the New Year with salt, coal, bread and a dark-haired man, visiting Christmas markets, or serving/not serving Yorkshire puds with the Christmas dinner.

Brands have their own Christmas traditions…think of Coca Cola’s ‘the holidays are coming’ advert, the fight for this year’s best tear-jerker commercial (John Lewis almost always wins this title), and the emergence of products you wouldn’t see advertised throughout the rest of the year (e.g. Christmas pudding, egg nog, pigs in blankets, etc.). 

High street coffee chains shift up a gear when Christmas is on the horizon. From a festive range of sandwiches and cakes to winter-warming hot drink flavours, every prominent coffee company changes their menu to evoke feelings of Christmas cheer.

My colleague, Paul, is disappointed that Costa Coffee has not brought back its Black Forest Hot Chocolate, given that this has been a popular choice of customers for many years. It appears he’s not alone, as many Costa customers have echoed his disappointment on social media. 

Costa’s response was to blame supply issues concerning the syrup their Black Forest Hot Chocolate requires. However, Caffe Nero hasn’t had any problems in getting their hands on this magic ingredient, and they’ve been duly advertising their Black Forest Mocha this Christmas.

Cafe Nero has had no issues getting Cherry syrup

This seems to be a growing trend…where brands blame the pandemic, the economy, the war in Ukraine—almost anything—rather than simply telling the truth. Clearly, there wasn’t a shortage of black forest syrup, or whatever it’s called. Would it have been that big a deal for Costa to say, ‘We’re just not doing the Black Forest Hot Chocolate this year, because we wanted to offer this instead’? Considering the backlash they’ve endured after being called out for their supposed supply issues, they’ve upset their loyal customers after all.

It makes you wonder if someone in the top tier of Costa just doesn’t like the Black Forest Hot Chocolate, given how much of a best-seller it is. I mean, I don’t like Black Forest Gateau (it is THE only cake I hate, and not liking cake is alien to me), which makes me think that I wouldn’t like the flavour of either Costa’s or Caffe Nero’s Black Forest Christmas creation—but if I sold a product that was a clear fan favourite and a very good earner, my personal tastes wouldn’t come into it. I also understand that brands want to experiment and try new things at times, but this can be done in tandem with existing products until lagging sales/demand of the new or old item drops enough to warrant its disappearance from the menu.

Another example of ‘personal taste/cutting nose off to spite face’ stems from the television programming of the late eighties. Though youngsters today will only know the stars and performance style of WWE, British Wrestling was a different sport back then. As hefty stars, such as Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, threw each other around, the sport enjoyed more viewers than Grandstand, which was a very popular show in its own right. The Head of ITV Sport at the time was a man named Greg Dyke, and he did not care for wrestling. So, despite the huge pool of viewers it attracted, he pulled it from the schedules. Middle-class Dyke, as many would label him, couldn’t see the attraction of British Wrestling; he felt the sport was simply a fascination of the working-class. British Wrestling disappeared from our screens for many years, until the turn of the century, when it reappeared in the UK, albeit in a different form. In the interim, the Britishness of the sport became diluted in favour of the performance and showiness of the American wrestling scene. Wrestling 2.0 became a ‘sport’ the whole family could enjoy, particularly children, and the more prominent characters in the field became heroes for boys across the UK.

Our sister company, Novus Marketing Solutions, would attest to the fact that the customer knows best. That’s not always the case when it comes to customer service, but it definitely is the case when talking about revenue. Why wouldn’t any company follow the money? In Costa’s case, they had a winner on their hands with the Black Forest Hot Chocolate—a staple that their faithful customers looked forward to each year. Why take something off the menu that’s popular in favour of new products that haven’t yet whet their customers’ whistles? Beats me.

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