Coffee Company Illy in Midst of PR Agency Search

Seeking to Grow Brand in U.S. and China

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Coffee company Illy is running a PR-agency search in the U.S. as it continues to grow its brand and cafe presence.

As of a few weeks ago, there were at least five agencies in the running, one executive told Ad Age .

It's understood that the agency's scope will include thought leadership and involve building communications strategies around the company's positioning on sustainability. According to a Fast Company article from 2010, Illy has rejected the concept of Fair Trade, which charges coffee growers for certification. Instead, it carries out its sustainability principals through its own University of Farmers, which trains coffee growers for free in various regions, including the U.S.

Illy declined to comment on its objectives, but its communications goals are likely aligned with its expansion. In San Francisco this past December, the Trieste, Italy-based company opened its first free-standing Espressamento Illy Cafe in North America. It now runs more than 200 coffee bars in 34 countries worldwide, according to Illy's Facebook page. In the U.S., most of the coffee bars exist within another venue.

China is another hot target for growth, according to a recent Dow Jones story. The company has plans to open its first cafe on mainland China within the coming months.

Ready-to-drink is also a priority for the brand. Trade publication The Vending Times reported that Illycaffe and Coca-Cola recently announced the launch of Illy Issimo beverages in new resealable glass bottles. The products are co-marketed by Illy and Coca-Cola through a three-year-old joint venture dubbed Ilko International.

On the communications front, the company has associated its brand with a commitment to the arts. It touts the Illy SustainArt Award which recognizes artists from coffee-producing countries such as Brazil, India and Mexico.

It's understood that the company has worked with 360PR in the U.S. The agency didn't immediately respond to a call for comment.

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