McDonald’s USA is for the first time unveiling certification logos on some marketing products for McCafe-brand drinks in the United States, including its new Pumpkin Spice latte. The fast food giant is boasting that all of the coffees used in its espresso drinks are 100 percent Rainforest Alliance-certified.
While McDonald’s has been using 100 percent certified espresso blends in Australia and Europe since 2009, and largely using certified beans for its North American espresso drinks since last year, the marketing strategy represents a kind of no-look-back commitment to sustainability in this market, suggested Erik Gonring, manager of public affairs, sustainability, for McDonald’s USA.
“Our customer base is more representative of mainstream America, and this topic does not always come to mind,” Gonring said in an interview with Daily Coffee News. “We think further engagement with our cutomer base will go a long way. When they start asking questions about where coffee comes from, there are quality cues there too. That’s one of the things we’re doing to drive the business.”
The certification claim does not apply to McDonald’s “Premium Roast” coffee, and it’s worth noting that espresso only accounts for about 8.8 percent of McDonald’s USA’s volume coffee purchasing, Gonrig said. Last year, approximately 25 percent of McDonald’s coffee purchased globally was certified with the Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade USA or UTZ, while that number dips to 14.8 percent in the U.S.
“The opportunity to scale up certifications is with the drip,” Gonring said, adding that McDonald’s USA has been working closely with groups throughout its supply chain to try to increase total certification numbers. “The nature of McDonald’s scale and sourcing requires that we work with a lot of people.”
To its credit, McDonald’s USA earlier this year collaborated with TechnoServe, investing some $6.5 million to train and provide technical assistance to some 13,000 farmers, primarily in Guatemala. Gonring said the farms involved aren’t yet part of McDonald’s supply chain, but the long-term goal of the investment is to get them there.