Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Free instant karma - er, coffee

It's official: Coffee culture has gone from high-life to lowbrow, now that Starbucks is coming out with an instant coffee. Not only that, it's going to be at Costco and Target. This is the story from National Restaurant News:

SEATTLE (Sept. 29, 2009) Pledging “this is not your grandmother’s instant coffee,” Starbucks Corp. said Tuesday it would roll out its VIA Ready Brew product nationally with a taste-test challenge for consumers in stores across the United States and Canada.

Starbucks chairman and chief executive Howard Schultz said the rollout would “transform the coffee industry” and give the global coffee chain a slice of the $21 billion instant coffee market — representing about 40 percent of overall coffee sales — without cannibalizing in-store beverage sales.

Starbucks first introduced the ready-brew product in February. Tests of VIA in Seattle, Chicago and London have exceeded the company's expectations, said Schultz, who noted that he has been serving it for some time at his office and home and “fooling people,” including his wife.

Convinced that the quality of VIA compares to Starbucks’ brewed coffee, the company is inviting customers to visit any store in the United States and Canada from Oct. 2-5 to see if they can taste the difference.

Taste-test participants can try the Colombia Starbucks VIA alongside a fresh-brewed cup of Pike Place Roast. Those who accept the challenge in U.S. stores will be rewarded with a coupon for a free tall brewed coffee on a subsequent visit, as well as $1 off a purchase of VIA. Participants in Canada will receive $1 off the purchase of VIA.

“We’re convinced that the majority will not be able to tell the difference,” Schultz said. “The proof of Starbucks VIA is in the cup.”

With the rollout, VIA will be available in Starbucks, Costco and Target stores nationwide, as well as “places we’ve never lived before,” Schultz said, including retail locations of specialty outdoor gear brand REI, United Airlines, Office Depot, Barnes & Noble and Omni Hotels.

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