Cotti Coffee, the “revenge” brand launched in 2022 by former Luckin Coffee executives, saw early success but is now falling behind as Luckin becomes China’s most profitable – and most talked about – coffee chain.
Deploying the shock collaboration tactic favoured by Luckin, Cotti has now teamed up with Wuchang Rice to create an original Rice Milk Latte. As a plant milk made from brown rice, rice milk is a good choice for people with lactose intolerance, spurring Cotti to market the coffee as “healing”.
The collaboration with Wuchang Rice comes hot on the heels of Luckin’s viral “Liquor Latte”, created in collaboration with premium rice wine brand Moutai Kweichow. While the product elicited some bemused reactions from netizens (“Can I drive after drinking this?!”), it was a runaway success selling over 5 million cups in one day and racking up tens of million views across Chinese social media platforms.
The marketing for Cotti x Wuchang appeared to respond directly to Luckin and Moutai’s collaboration with the slogan “Alcohol late at night hurts your liver. Porridge in the early morning nourishes your stomach”. Whilst it hasn’t been a viral hit on the same level as Moutai and Luckin, the Rice Milk Latte has sold out and netizens are clamouring for a restock.
Cotti Coffee was started by Luckin founders Charles Lu and Jenny Qian, who were ousted from the company after it was delisted from Nasdaq in 2020 for fabricating sales figures. Cotti’s business model mirrors that of Luckin in its early days – ultra low-priced coffee served in tiny outlets at speed, with discounts and special offers galore.
The brand has made a mark on the sector remarkably quickly, scoring a sponsorship deal with the Argentinian national football team and opening 5,000 locations in 300 cities and 5 countries – all in just 10 months. But as Luckin becomes the most profitable coffee chain in China, the gap between the two brands has widened.
With this latest collaboration, Cotti is perhaps attempting to position itself as an alternative to Luckin, providing affordable healthy options rather than shock value alone.