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Seattle’s Best Coffee’s expansion plans include new logo

Melissa Allison Seattle Times

After years as Starbucks’ little-mentioned shadow brand, Seattle’s Best Coffee is stepping into the light with redesigned cups and signage, and a Facebook page to underscore its rapidly expanding presence in fast-food restaurants.

One of Seattle’s oldest coffee brands, Seattle’s Best – known for a smoother, lighter roast than Starbucks – has seen change before.

After a couple of name and ownership changes, Starbucks bought the Seattle’s Best Coffee chain of 129 stores in 2003 and mostly ignored it.

It was so independent of Starbucks that Seattle’s Best employees bragged about not sharing their recipes with Starbucks workers, especially for popular drinks like Red Cane Kola, a cold drink of sugar and cola nuts with creamy froth on top.

Early last year, Seattle’s Best had 550 stores, about 480 of them in Borders bookstores.

Then the changes began. To squeeze higher sales from areas that once took a back seat to its breakneck U.S. store growth, Starbucks started juicing Seattle’s Best.

By the fall, the coffee will be sold in 30,000 locations, more than half of them Subway and Burger King stores and AMC Theatres. The chain is also pursuing franchisees.

The Seattle’s Best facelift features a clean new logo that looks like an open-mouthed smiley face with a drip of coffee. It will appear on cups and napkins by this fall, on coffee packages in grocery stores and elsewhere by next spring and on store signs over the next year.

Besides the logo, they came up with other ways for customers to experience Seattle’s Best, including plans for tasting events and a Facebook page that will go live Wednesday.

Michelle Gass, a rising star at Starbucks put in charge of Seattle’s Best last fall, said the coffee giant is not worried about its in-house sibling overtaking its brand: “Seattle’s Best is going all kinds of new and interesting places and can happily coexist within the Starbucks family.”

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