Industry News | May 29, 2009

Starbucks Rolls Out Instant Coffee

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Starbucks is entering the instant coffee business.

The global coffeehouse company recently launched its new individualized VIA Ready Brew in its hometown of Seattle as well as Chicago and London markets. Select Costco and Target stores in the two U.S. cities are also carrying the product.

The ready brew comes in small individual packets, so customers can get their Starbucks fix anytime, anywhere—hence the product’s name which means “road” in Italian.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Ann-Marie Kurtz, manager of global coffee and tea education for Starbucks, told QSR on a visit to the company’s Seattle headquarters, that VIA had been in the works for the last 20 years ever since a local inventor brought an instant coffee blend to CEO Howard Schultz’s attention in the early 1990s.

Today, with customers looking to save money whenever possible, the VIA might be the perfect product to help Starbucks undercut itself. The sachets are priced at about $1 each and are sold in packs of three or 12 in Columbia and Italian Roast varieties.

Not only does the coffee dissolve in hot water, VIA also works with cold water, allowing the company to capitalize on the growing popularity of iced coffee.

As an indication of the product’s potential success, the UK research firm Allegra Strategies named VIA the UK’s Most Innovative New Product of the Year.

But the company’s overpriced stigma might be hard to shake just yet. Even on its own Web site consumers are complaining about the price point being too high.

According to company projections, VIA will be available in other markets later this calendar year or early next year.

--Blair Chancey