Douwe Egberts: how do you like your coffee?

Douwe Egberts is related to coffee.
Most of the time that’s what people say when you bring up this typical Dutch brand. But oh you have no idea, this coffee brand is so much more.

Let me try to explain:

  • In 1753, a man named Egbert Douwe, opened a grocery shop called The White Ox, in the small village Joure, in The Netherlands. He was mostly selling coffee, tea and tobacco.
  • The store became so popular that in the 1940s, the business extended into Western Europe. And in the following decades, the company acquired leading coffee makers in France, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands.
  • In 1978, Sara Lee Corporation, an American consumer-goods company, became owner of the Douwe Egberts company.
  • In 2011, Douwe Egberts separated from Sara Lee. And in June 2012, the new company, with a name that links Douwe Egberts’ past to its future, was born:

It’s still a bit vague don’t you think? I’ll try to make it easier for you.
DE-Master-Blenders-logo_1D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753 is the umbrella name for an international coffee and tea company, headquartered in the Netherlands, which sells a lot of brands and products in more than 45 countries all over the world. I’ll focus on The Netherlands.
So, which brands and services is D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753 offering in The Netherlands? Here we go:
–          Douwe Egberts Professional
–          Coffee Company
–          Douwe Egberts’ coffee
–          Douwe Egberts Cafés
–          Kanis & Gunnink
–          L’OR EspressO
–          Natrena
–          Pickwick tea
–          SENSEO® SARISTA
–          SENSEO®
–          Van Nelle
You get the picture now? Yes, very good.
Douwe Egberts is now ‘just’ one of many, but still very important, brands of world’s second largest coffee and tea company, which finds its heritage in The Netherlands.

Are you still there? Okay! Let me now tell you why I chose this brand.
First of all, I love coffee. Second, I did my graduation internship at Douwe Egberts The Netherlands in Utrecht, and I loved it too. I had a great, inspirational and very exciting time and I’ve learned a LOT.
And now you’re probably wondering why I chose the brand Douwe Egberts out of the others in the company? Well, in the third place, I wanted to go back to the beginning, back to 1753, where founder Egbert Douwe wrote history with his grocery store which resulted in the first coffee brand of the company: Douwe Egberts.

Now let me welcome you into the world of Douwe Egberts…
First I will tell you something about the specific brand identity elements and my opinion about those elements. Next I will discuss the value of the brand and last but not least, I will give my opinion on the salience of this brand versus its competitors.


Douwe Egberts’ coffee includes a lot of different products. A summary:

  • Filter coffee (10 types);
  • Coffee beans (7 types);
  • Ice coffee (4 types);
  • Instant coffee (4 types).

The brand identity consists of the brand name Douwe Egberts, the red D.E seal and the Aroma Lady. See some examples below:
douwe egberts naam de zegel aroma lady

About the name
Like I told you before, the founder of the company was Egbert Douwe and his store was called The White Ox. But as its trade in coffee and tea expanded, Egbert Douwe’s family decided to rename the company to Douwe Egberts.

Evolution of the seal
As the business developed, its headquarters moved from Joure to Utrecht, and in 1920, the iconic red Douwe Egberts seal, which is now incorporated into the company’s logo, was introduced: 


Aroma Lady’s transformation
Since 1898, a woman is pictured on all Douwe Egberts’ products. Back then, she was called the ‘Coffee Lady’. This Frisian lady illustrates the brands’ country of origin, and in specific the Frisian village Joure. In 2002, former Marketing Director F. Reefman decided to re-design the Coffee Lady, to make the brand more visible, more surprising and more distinctive. So the Coffee Lady became an Aroma Lady:

aroma lady evolutie

As you can see, the design of the seal and the Aroma Lady have changed a lot over the years. This is due to the fact that consumers like simplicity nowadays. A brand doesn’t need a logo or packaging with a lot of information or pictures anymore. Simply put: loyal consumers who know the quality and benefits of a product just want to recognize a logo or packaging and then buy it, even if the design changes a bit, they probably keep buying it. On the other hand, potential consumers won’t get triggered by an old-fashioned design, so that’s why a brand has to invest in new-fashioned designs for their products.

Besides a brand’s name, logo and packaging, they’re often recognizable by a slogan. Douwe Egberts has changed its slogan a few times. From oldest to newest:

  • En dan is er koffie… Douwe Egerts koffie, lekkere koffie  – And there is coffee… Douwe Egberts’ coffee, delicious coffee (1982)
  • Het ruikt hier naar Douwe Egberts – It smells like Douwe Egberts (2005)
  • Je bent er ‘s morgens pas helemaal bij na een heerlijk kopje Douwe Egberts – In the morning, you will wake up after a delicious cup of Douwe Egberts (2007)
  • Dat is andere koffie – That is different coffee
  • Een goed gesprek begint bij Douwe Egberts – A good converstation starts with Douwe Egberts (2008)
  • Een goed idee begint met een kopje Douwe Egberts koffie – A good idea starts with a cup of Douwe Egberts’ coffee. (2010)
  • Douwe Egberts, gebrand voor Nederland – Douwe Egberts, roasted for Dutch people (2013)

Aroma Rood filter coffee
I can’t give you an exact percentage of the sales volume, but I can tell Aroma Rood filter coffee is the best-selling product of Douwe Egberts’ coffee products. That’s why I will show you the transformation of the Aroma Rood filter coffee packaging throughout the years, and afterwards, I will discuss if Douwe Egberts meets some important brand criteria.

The transformation of Aroma Rood filter coffee:

dein2013         3-pakken



–          Memorable: Yes
Even though the design of the name, the seal, the packaging, the fonts and the coffee lady have changed throughout the years, the brand in general is easily recalled and recognized.

–          Meaningful: Yes, definitely
The brand is well-known worldwide and is still expanding its markets all over the world. It’s very special that a brand founded in a small Dutch village, has become a big part of an international coffee and tea company.

–          Likable: Depends on consumers’ needs
Whether you like the Douwe Egberts brand or not, depends on your specific wants and needs as a consumer: “What are you looking for in your coffee?”. But as far as I can say, the brand is definitely likable. Why else would they win the prize ‘Brand of the year’ back in 2012?

–          Transferable: Definitely
The company operates in 45 countries worldwide within and across different categories and segments (e.g. filter, ice and instant  coffee, coffee beans, tea, coffee systems etc.).

–          Adaptable: A little
Douwe Egberts’ products used to be a bit old-fashioned (see the transformation of Aroma Rood), but nowadays, the brand becomes better in following global and local trends and in mapping consumers’ wants and needs. That doesn’t close out the fact there’s still room for progress.

–          Protectable: Yes
Basically, everyone is allowed to start a company which sells coffee. However, all Douwe Egberts’ product names, logos, packaging and fonts are copyrighted, and the company made collaboration agreements with all their different suppliers, so it isn’t easy to compete with the brand.


According to Kevin Lane Keller, brand mantras are; “short, three-to-five-word phrases that capture the irrefutable essence of spirit in the brand positioning.”. Three criteria for a brand mantra:
1)       A brand mantra has to be easy to communicate and has to set the brand boundaries;
2)       It has to be simple: short, vivid, crisp and meaning;
3)       And a brand mantra should be memorable.

As an ex-intern, I made up the following brand mantra for Douwe Egberts:

Typical Dutch, familiar, close to people”


Typical Dutch: The brand finds its origin in The Netherlands and since 1753, its products are popular among Dutch people.
Familiar: Douwe Egberts wants to bring people together with coffee.
Close to people: Douwe Egberts collaborate with its consumers through different marketing campaigns, for example Burendag (Neighbours’ Day) in The Netherlands, an annual day in neighborhoods in the whole country, where Douwe Egberts brings neighbours closer together with a good cup of coffee.


28th of March 2013, D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753 announced they were negotiating with a German Investor group, led by Joh. A. Benckiser (JAB), to let them acquire the firm. Back then, JAB was already a major shareholder in the international coffee and tea company. Mid June 2013, JAB got permission of the European Commission to acquire D.E MASTER BLENDERS 1753 NV for €7,5 milliard, which is €12,50 per share.
At the moment, it’s hard to say what the brand Douwe Egberts is worth, because of the ongoing changes in the company, but simply put, the whole company is now worth €7,5 milliard.


As Keller says, brand salience relates to aspects of awareness of the brand, for example, how often and easily the brand is evoked under various situations or circumstances. In other words, how high is Douwe Egberts’ top-of-mind awareness among consumers?

Douwe Egberts’ biggest competitors are Starbucks, Illy and Nestlé. In my opinion, Starbucks positions itself very good in the coffee-to-go segment and ensures a large digital media presence. So if you fancy a coffee on your way to work, home or any other occasion, I guess most consumers will rather choose Starbucks than Douwe Egberts coffee in Douwe Egberts Cafes. However, in retail stores, I think most consumers will choose Douwe Egberts’ coffee over Starbucks products because they have a larger retail position and Dutch consumers will probably feel more connected with the typical Dutch coffee brand with its very long history in the Dutch society.

lijnen-2-koffie-kopjeCompared to Illy and Nestlé, I think the salience of Douwe Egberts depends on consumers’ wants and needs. For example, if you grew up with Illy or Nestlé, you could make the assumption you will continue to buy this brand the rest of your life. And the same will happen if you grew up with Douwe Egberts. So what’s the difference? Depending on the country and culture where Douwe Egberts’ products are sold, the level of salience is higher or lower than Illy and Nestlé.

As a conclusion, I assume, in The Netherlands, the brand Douwe Egberts is highly salient. Due to the fact the brand is engaging and retaining its consumers throughout the years with their unique selling points such as consistency, heritage and nationalism.

Quite a long story don’t you think? It’s time for a coffee-break! How do you like your coffee? Find out what your coffee says about you. Where? Right here.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your coffee!



2 thoughts on “Douwe Egberts: how do you like your coffee?

  1. I really liked reading your article! I became a fan of Douwe Egberts at a wedding four years ago. The reception was held at a hotel and the coffee was the best I had ever had. We had to ask the staff what brand it was! Their response was Douwe Egberts Time Together. We immediately went home and bought a few bags.
    We got married just a few months later and bought more bags to give as gifts to our parents. It was SO GOOD! Now you can no longer find that name, even on their site directly. I have written to them to see which blend they have now that would resemble Time Together. I’m going to ask you the same. If you’ve ever had that blend, it was perfect! Robust, medium-dark roast, smooth, with a hint of vanilla (so the description says).

    Thank you for such a great history & article on the company! Makes me love it even more….now if I could just find a blend like Time Together….

    -Renee Dean

    • Hi Renee,
      Thank you for your comment. Happy to hear you liked my article! Totally agree with you on the fact that Douwe Egberts coffee is one of the best 🙂 I did some research in order to help you, but I think the Douwe Egberts Time Together blend is nowhere in stock anymore. But I bet Douwe Egberts has similar coffee blends in their product line still, so hopefully they respond to you soon 🙂 – Malou

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