The Economist’s free kopi luwak subscription promo in Singapore riles animal welfare group

Kopi luwak handed out by The Economist

Punters gather for free kopi luwak at the Economist’s stand in Singapore

The Economist newspaper is treading the boundaries of bad taste by giving out a type of coffee made from the faeces of captive wild animals in an effort to gain new subscribers in Singapore.

Kopi luwakThe famous weekly current affairs and business magazine has been handing out cups of kopi luwak – a controversial type of coffee made from berries that have passed through the digestive systems of palm civets – to passers-by in the CBD area, who were then offered an introductory trial for The Economist.

Those who stopped for a cup of civet poop coffee – which can cost up to US$80 and is the most expensive type in the world – could get a four-week Economist subscription for S$5.

Kopi luwakA number of animal welfare groups have launched campaigns to oppose kopi luwak in Singapore in recent years, highlighting the cruelty of civets being forced to eat only coffee berries and kept in poor conditions where they are farmed in Indonesia.

Singapore animal welfare group ACRES told Mumbrella: “Civets are omnivorous wild animals who feed on diverse food items. Farming them for kopi luwak may often involve taking them from the wild, feeding only on coffee berries and keeping them in farm conditions, which are often appalling and not monitored.”

“Saying no to kopi luwak is the best choice to keep civets in the wild,” the NGO stated, adding that Grand Hyatt cafes and Owl Cafés have taken the brew off their menus.

“We urge individuals and corporates not to promote kopi luwak,” ACRES stated.

In response to Mumbrella’s questions about using captive wild animals for a marketing campaign, The Economist said: “We are aware that there are unscrupulous producers of kopi luwak coffee. The Economist has received assurances from its suppliers that kopi luwak used in our promotional campaigns is 100 per cent ethically produced”.

The Economist's piece about kopi luwakThe idea to hand out kopi luwak was to give Singaporeans a flavour of the sort of articles that feature in The Economist. The paper ran a piece on kopi luwak in 2013 that began with the words: “The most expensive coffee in the world is shit. This is not an opinion, it is fact.”

Grace Hahn, circulation and group marketing director for The Economist, Asia Pacific, said in a press release about the campaign: “As our readers know, The Economist covers so much more than finance, banking and the economy – it provides insights and analysis on everything from science and technology to culturally relevant topics and seeks to ignite discussions about the world we live in. What better way to spark a conversation about an interesting topic like kopi luwak than over a cup of the coffee itself.”

Kopi luwak“As we grow our subscriber base in Southeast Asia, The Economist coffee truck will give prospective readers in Singapore the chance to interact with The Economist brand and get a taste of the type of varied and fascinating content they can expect from us,” she said.

The Economist’s campaign comes just a few weeks after the title offered potential subscribers free ice cream made from insects to bring in news subscribers in Hong Kong.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing