Rapping Up Cold Brew

The Seattle rapper Macklemore appears at a Dutch Bros summit in Arizona

Dutch Bros Coffee hires rapper Macklemore to promote its new cold-brew offerings, a sign of the chilled coffee drink’s emerging dominance among consumers.

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Seattle-based rapper Macklemore has a new job title.

The Grammy award-winning artist, who helped bring Pacific Northwest culture nationwide with his hit song “Thrift Shop,” has signed on as the new executive creative director of cold brew at Dutch Bros Coffee.

If the title sounds like a made-up position created specifically for him, that is because it is.

While the rapper may not work at the coffee company from nine to five, he is not just the face of a marketing campaign either.

“He’s invited to team meetings; he’s invited to headquarters to help us brainstorm ideas for products,” says Dutch Bros president Joth Ricci.

Macklemore and Dutch Bros president Joth Ricci. Credit: Daniel Jeremiah, Dutch Bros Coffee 

The company has not yet hammered out details on what sort of public appearances the rapper will make to advertise the beverage, or when, but the company plans for the rapper to perform at internal events for baristas in Oregon and California.

Hiring a well-known celebrity to market its drinks shows how ambitious the company’s plans are to compete with dominant market players, such as Starbucks.

“When you have the one of the most creative people in the world, they can help you come up with some pretty great ideas. We’re hoping to get some new drinks out of him,” says Ricci.

Ricci was the one who had the idea to get Macklemore on board for a six-month tenure at Dutch Bros. The company president had already cultivated a relationship with the rapper when he performed at company events, and says Macklemore was a fan of the Dutch Bros coffee long before the deal was struck.

Macklemore attends the Dutch Bros business summit. Credit: Daniel Jeremiah, Dutch Bros Coffee

Dutch Bros is also a supporter of Macklemore’s hip-hop residency program for young songwriters. “It just seemed like a natural fit for everybody,” says Ricci.  

Following a 2018 capital raise through private equity firm TSG Partners, the privately held coffee company announced it would use the funds to grow from 300 to 800 shops across its seven-state coffee empire.

Ricci says the artist’s tenure at Dutch Bros is not part of that larger expansion strategy. Instead, as his new title suggests, Macklemore will be part of a marketing campaign to promote and develop the company’s cold-brew coffee offerings, including a new nitro brew line-up, and a white chocolate lavender cold-brew flavor.

According to Ricci, the company’s focus on cold coffee reflects the evolving nature of the industry.

Ricci says cold coffee, including iced coffee, cold brew and sweet icy drinks, now outpaces hot coffee when viewed as a percentage of overall revenue.

Financial reports by Starbucks and global public relations firm Mintel found similar trends.

Dutch Bros is not the first coffee company to embrace the cold brew craze. Given that Starbucks’s nitro cold brew came out in 2016, the Grants Pass-based coffee company could be seen as something of a latecomer.

In addition to its new cold-brew flavors, the company has also developed and tested new cold-beverage products to distinguish them from the competition.

Among these research and development innovations is a ‘soft top’ whipped topping, a sweet creamy concoction that is sprayed onto a cold beverage, and will stay afloat on top of the drink without capsizing into it.

According to a 2016 report by Mintel, millennials are the primary drinkers, and drivers, behind the explosion of cold coffee sales.

“I think a great spokesperson can be part of a great strategy,” says Ricci. “Macklemore’s fanbase and following are closely aligned with who our customer base is.”

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