McDonald's, Dunkin' trademark moves heat up coffee wars

Oct. 5, 2012

In September, McDonald's filed a U.S. trademark registration for its name to cover ground and whole-bean coffee. According to Burger Business, this move likely signals a move by the Golden Arches to enter the coffee retail space, alongside Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and Tim Hortons.

A spokesperson for McDonald's wouldn't discuss such future plans, however, and noted that the company registers "a lot" of trademarks.

McDonald's jumped into the premium coffee space in 2006. By 2010, McDonald's U.S. coffee sales represented more than 6 percent of its business. The McCafe brand has continued to grow since and, according to the Burger Business story, represented nearly $2.1 billion of the chain's nearly $34.2 billion 2011 sales.

The retail coffee market is strong for existing QSRs. A recent 10-K form from Dunkin' Donuts shows that brand's 12 oz. original blend coffee is the No. 1 stock-keeping unit nationally in the premium coffee category.

Dunkin's market share has also continued to grow since its launch of K-Cups in August 2011.

Burger Business estimates that McDonald's packaged coffee potential equates to about a 4 percent jump in average unit sales.

Dunkin' goes for 'Best Coffee in America'

Also this week, Dunkin' Donuts applied for the trademark "Best Coffee in America." According to the Boston Globe, Dunkin' Donuts hasn't disclosed how it intends to back up the slogan.

A Dunkin' spokesperson told the publication that the company sells more than 1.5 billion cups of hot and iced coffee globally every year and "we are simply going through the trademark process."

Dennis Lombardi, a foodservice consultant at WD Partners, said competitors will likely challenge the move.

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Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Coffee/Bakery/Donut , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Operations Management

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