Fast food chain KFC has recently partnered with the sacred Buddhist site Mount Wutai to launch a new coffee. The collaboration is between K Coffee, KFC’s coffee offering and Wutaishan, the official brand backed by local cultural and travel authorities, and will be available between 8 and 21 January.
The coffee features a distinctive oriental scent – sandalwood, which is significant in Buddhism and popular in incense and as material for scented objects d’art. The sandalwood latte features freshly ground Arabica coffee and thick milk. The cup features Wutaishan-themed artwork and words of blessing adapted from the ancient Chinese classic Huangdi Neijing: May all be well and without worries, may all get what they wish for (顺遂无虞，皆得所愿). The 22 RMB (3.10 USD) coffee currently has a “buy one get one free” offer and includes a blessing sticker set from Wutaishan.
KFC has had a string of collaborations with partners such as Lavazza coffee, Sweet Bean from toymaker POP MART, the mobile game Eggy Party and the manga/anime series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. It has also been promoting the K Coffee brand by choosing actor Tan Jianci as a brand ambassador. The brand hashtag “You drink coffee, I drink K Coffee” (#你喝咖啡，我喝K咖啡#) has reached 330 million views on Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent.
Mount Wutai is a historical sacred site of Buddhism. A mountainous forest area, the region contains around 50 temples and monasteries of both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. With Buddhism-related culture and travel becoming increasingly popular among the younger generations in China, Wutaishan has been active online with its merch and other products, including a recent team-up with Bestore.
However, Buddhism-related marketing has been a little testy with the recent fiasco of Hey Tea pulling its Speechless Buddha co-branded tea latte a week after launch. Without using any Buddhist imagery and choosing a blessing outside Buddhist texts, the KFC x Mount Wutai collaboration seems unphased by the controversy.