Groundwork Coffee reveals new website and package designs
By Jenn McKee
Venice’s Groundwork Coffee, which bills itself as “the original organic LA-based coffee shop,” has been celebrating its 30th year by getting some work done.
Specifically, Groundwork’s two-years-in-the-making “brand refresh” – designed in collaboration with the branding agency Ludlow Kingsley – centers on a new, more user-friendly website; and packaging that’s more aligned, aesthetically and ecologically, with Groundwork’s core values.
“Our old look wasn’t successful in communicating what we stand for as a brand, so we wanted to make it more clear to our customers and to new audiences as well,” said Jessica Smith, Groundwork VP of marketing.
That mission involves sourcing high-quality organic coffee and tea, working toward environmental sustainability whenever possible, and supporting local communities. With all this in mind, Groundwork’s new packaging uses vibrant earth tones on eco-friendly materials, including Biotrē bags – which break down into healthy compost and are made from 60% renewable, plant-based resources by weight.
Plus, the image of a hand alongside a sprouting flower in the soil suggests the intersection of humans and the environment, and Groundwork’s stewardship approach.
“I think one of the most important things about Groundwork is that it’s not elitist,” Smith said. “There’s not this ‘coffee snob’ mentality. What we really stand for is being part of the communities where our stores exist so that everyone who comes in feels comfortable.”
As for Groundwork’s new website, “We tried to flatten it,” Smith said. “Before, there was a lot of clicking you had to do, because everything was separated. To shop, there were too many steps to go through. The intention with the new site was to put the shopping experience right on the home page. We also created a very detailed system, so if you do know what you want, you’ll go right to it, but if you don’t know, you can select certain filters, which make the experience more user-friendly, and also lighter and more approachable.”
Remarkably, Groundwork’s “brand refresh” has already won a Coffee Design Award in the Specialty Coffee Association’s branding category; but because of the pandemic, the path was long and sometimes rocky.
“The number one challenge has been supply issues,” Smith said. “We’d identify some stamp we wanted to use, and then we’d hear it’s going to be a year before we can get our hands on it, or that the cost of something is now three times the original price. We had to find solutions, because our first priority was offering high quality organic coffee with a reasonable price point.”
Perhaps to emphasize this point even further, Groundwork Coffee is also continuing its new Limited Reserve program, which twice a year showcases a premium organic coffee alongside a local talent from the art world.
Groundwork’s newest selection comes from Julia Ortega Carballo, whose farm, Finca Los Pinos, is the first certified carbon neutral farm in Mexico. (Fruits of the coffee cherries are either repurposed into soil additives for next year’s harvest or processed into jams.) The coffee’s packaging features the work of LA artist Sonia Romero.
“We started this program in 2021,” Smith said. “We used to do some coffees in small lots, but that wasn’t a consistent option in our portfolio. This year, we wanted to do something special, and do some kind of partnership that would support local artists.”
Carballo’s limited-edition blend – her entry into this year’s Mexico’s Cup of Excellence competition – will likely sell out quickly, but Groundwork’s more standard offerings seem destined to become far more widely available.
Groundwork opened its doors in Venice Beach in 1990. New Groundwork cafés continue to open across the West Coast; the company’s two busy roasteries (in Los Angeles and Portland) are humming along. Groundwork has a growing line of cold brew coffees and its product will earn a spot on grocery stores’ shelves.
“We’re slowly making our way East,” Smith said. “…With retailers like The Fresh Market and Fresh Thyme, it will be our first time ever in the Midwest. These are brand new places for Groundwork.”
But frankly, it’s already impressive – in a Little Engine That Could way – that Groundwork Coffee has grown and thrived for 30 years, at a time when a fervent coffee connoisseurship culture has taken hold.
“We really believe in relationships,” Smith said. “…If you’re a good partner, and you’re consistent in what you do, and what you stand for – that’s why we’ve maintained a foothold for so long…We just make a great product, and we make it a fun experience. Coffee is joyful, and it should be accessible to everyone.”