A whole latte of media hits – how lab-grown coffee in Finland made over 200+ international headlines

On September 15th, 2021, the team at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will announce it has successfully produced coffee cells in a bioreactor through cellular agriculture. The innovation can help to make the production of coffee more sustainable. The first batches produced by VTT in a laboratory in Finland smell and taste like conventional coffee.


In fall 2021, San Francisco got the hugely inspiring opportunity to plan and execute an international PR campaign concerning VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland‘s amazing innovation: growing coffee in a lab with cellular agriculture.

The story was picked up by The Guardian, Reuters, The Smithsonian Magazine, Fast Company, CNBC, and many, many others, resulting in more than 200 earned media hits – and us having to upgrade our coverage reporting tool several times, as the avalanche of coverage hit our system like a (very welcome) battering ram.

We closed the official reporting at 217 articles, but even since then, more have trickled in. A personal mic drop moment for me was seeing news coverage about how much coverage there was.

And here are some key takeaways from the captain’s seat of this campaign.

VTT’s goal was to increase awareness of the organization’s research and development expertise in the international market. The core story and some very nice visuals were already there – huge advantages in the world of PR.

It was our task to spar with VTT’s experts and communications team to sharpen the news angle of the story for international media. What problem does it solve? What’s happening in the world? How can we tie Finland’s country brand into this more closely?

We had a breakthrough, unique innovation achieved in a country that already has an international reputation of being one of the most innovative nations in the world – and home to the world’s most coffee-thirsty folks.

When we were happy with the story, we hand-picked journalists to pitch the story to and, later, we distributed the press release widely. The results speak for themselves.

Another key factor in making this campaign so successful was the open and trusting collaboration with the client. Giving us free hands to do what we do best not only makes the work easier, it becomes so much more fun! It’s a joy for us to watch experts who truly deserve the spotlight get the attention of journalists.

We are super grateful and it was lovely to hear the great feedback from the client.

“Our goal is to increase VTT’s visibility in selected markets globally. We have been impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of San Francisco’s experts in turning scientific innovations into interesting news angles for international media. The results of the coffee-related project are amazing.” – Leena Rantasalo, Head of Communications, VTT

If you are curious about what kinds of media hits we got, check out the report we put together.

The writer is Kristiina Nieminen, San Francisco Agency’s Director of Comms and PR Strategy. She’s an expert in strategic storytelling, building media visibility, and communications strategy. And she really likes coffee.

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