Starbucks releases Via instant coffee nationwide, stocks store shelves and other retailers


From The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — The company that added “venti” and “frappuccino” to American vocabularies is making a push throughout North America to convince connoisseurs to sample what many see as a down-market drink — instant coffee.

Nearly eight months after Starbucks Corp. began selling its Via instant coffee in Seattle and Chicago, the company on Tuesday will begin offering the dissolvable drink to the rest of the country and in its Canadian stores.

Backed by the company’s first-ever television ads, along with large-scale distribution to about 1,500 sites outside its stores, the Via launch shows just how determined Starbucks is to own a stake in the $21 billion worldwide instant coffee market.

“Based on the success we’ve had, we feel strongly that we’re sitting on a very big opportunity,” said Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said during a conference call with journalists. “What’s going to sell Via at the end of the day is that (it) delivers in the cup. Most people will not be able to tell the difference.”

While instant coffee is pervasive throughout Europe — accounting for as much as 80 percent of coffee sales in the U.K. — the insta-brews haven’t won over American taste buds, in large part because of their image as an inferior knock-off of drip-brewed beverages.

But it’s that perception that Starbucks executives are trying to change. They hope the skinny cylindrical 3-packs ($2.95) and 12-packs ($9.95) of coffee that dissolve in water will eventually be as prevalent on store shelves as its packaged coffee is now. The coffee is available in Colombia and Italian Roast flavors, and more varieties are expected to be introduced in the future.

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