Drive distribution to grow the core like Costa

Using distribution to grow the core is a great business builder, as covered in the Grow the Core book. And a cup of Costa coffee at a local Shell station reminded me that perhaps the best example of this in recent times is Costa Coffee. Costa recently announced quartely sales up a whacking 23%. The brand is still highly ambitious, with owner Whitbread aiming to doubles sales to £2billion.

Here’s what they have done.

1. Grow in current channels

Costa have been efficient at expanding their high street presence in the core UK market, where they have 1,300+ stores and are now over twice as big as Starbucks. Not as sexy as social media perhaps. But finding the right sites and then opening up stores faster and better than the competition has been a key growth driver.

2. Open new routes to consumer

Costa has been excellent at opening up new routes to the consumer. The company bought the Coffee Nation brand of fresh ground coffee vending machines, and re-branded them as Costa Express. Costa now has 2,000+ of these machines in petrol stations, supermarkets and motorway service stations. Costa Express delivers a better cup of coffee than your average machine by using fresh ground coffee and fresh milk.

Costa has also broadened its reach by creating Costa At Home capsules that work in Tasimo single serve coffee machines. This is a good way of increasing the reach of the brand and keeping it top of mind.

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3. Geographic expansion

The third distribution driver is expanding geographically, especially with a push into the growing Chinese market, where Starbucks are also very active.

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In conclusion, Costa is a great example of growing the core, but focusing on what you do best, but finding new ways to get this to the consumer through driving distribution.


To get some practical help to grow your core business, you can download our Core Growth Driver toolkit by using the form below. This walks you through the 8 core growth drivers we’ve used on consulting projects and in training for leading companies including Mars, Unilever, Mondelez and AB InBev.

We also offer a short, on-demand course on our brandgym Academy platform here. The course is only £95+VAT and is fully refunded if you go on to take the full Mastering Brand Growth program.

To explore grow the core more, check out this other post.