It's funny how most of the specialty industry ignores the fact that instant coffee has a huge market-both here in the states and all over the world. I've said it before-as far as instant coffee is concerned, VIA is head and shoulders above the rest. Instant coffee will never get close to the real deal in aroma & flavor, but, is that really the market Starbucks is going after? It's like beating a long dead horse if you're going to bash instant. It's an even longer expired equine if you're going to bash the Siren.
Jarred Hoffpauir nailed it above with "gateway drug."
I have a friend who lives in a small town. He has roasted for several years and is big into coffee. His grandma knew that, and (innocently) gave him some VIA as a surprise. He thanked her very much and as soon as she was gone I saw him throw it away. It was great.
Look, I have to agree with Bryan on this. The whole instant push in the long run has very little to do with the US market- it is designed to introduce the brand at a lower level into Starbucks future- which they realise to their credit is not the US or Europe- but China, India, Indonesia (over half the worlds population) and ultimatley into Africa. In Indonesia the average wage in Jakarta is US$3 a day- a coffee at a Starbucks downtown Jakarta is US$3.50. The brand recognition is HUGE here... kids even in the poorest slum/shanty towns know Starbucks and wear the brand on T-shirts. Its just difficult to build volume on the low salaries here. The answer? Get consumers hooked on instant first and as disposable income rises... over a decade or more... then the customer can afford 1, 2, 5 Ventes every month at a store. Its a smart move I think- speaks volumes for the commitment to the shareholder return- as specialty coffee proffesionals of course it tells us their future is, no matter what they say, not in the top end of the market.
But to back up to the ultimate end game for Sbux, as quoted by Schulz directly “With a US$21 billion global instant coffee business, and instant coffee representing 40 per cent of overall global coffee sales, we believe Starbucks is uniquely positioned to capture a significant share of this market,” The glittering prize is not quality specialty coffee, rather a nice slice of the big global instant market and contunuing revenue and brand building in Asia and the Subcontinent...and possible in future Africa.
I might get keelhauled, but I was pleasantly surprised by Via. I have some experience with instant coffee, and it was certainly better than any instant I'd had before, and was superior to many diner/gas station drip brews I've had. I think that SB releasing a tasty instant coffee is a good sign; it means that even those consumers whose primary intake of coffee is instant will now begin to distinguish between good and bad coffee - which is exactly how SB started the big coffee wave in the US, which we are all now benefitting from.
"Turkish" is really finely ground coffee boiled in water multiple times, then you allow the grounds to kind of settle out, there's no filtering or anything. I've had some that was pretty good, it's always pretty strong...I definitely don't turn my nose up at lots of sugar in Turkish coffee.
Instant Coffee is a dried, soluble coffee product, I think most kinds are made now by basically brewing strong coffee and then drying the liquid; the powder that results can be completely re-dissolved in water with nothing to filter. Of course, it does go through some unfortunate taste changes.
On the Via discussion, it's pretty brilliant marketing. Realistically, there are a lot of places where Starbucks is going to be the best cup of coffee in town, going up against gas stations, diners, and donut places, and even in areas where there are much better alternatives, large sections of the population aren't coffee-aware. So, I don't think they have to worry too much about existing customers cottoning on to the fact that their normal drip coffee is on par with a good instant, and that's not so good.
My girlfriend (also a barista) works in an office now, and reports that several highly-paid and -educated people "love" Via, commenting on its convenience etc. The coffee-lover in me cringes, but I can respect the brilliance of the marketing. I don't think colas/Mountain Dew/energy drinks are too good, either, but plenty of people drink those for the caffeine fix, even in the morning. Is Via worse?
And yeah, there's no arguing it could take off internationally. Try getting a decent cup of drip coffee, much less an espresso or some such, in a lot of places in the world...a low-cost instant that's associated with "higher quality" and a recognizable brand, hence an instant that has a kind of status attached regardless of flavor, sounds like it could sell quite well.
No defending the flavor, though.
Michael Morand said:
hahaha! My wife sent some to me here in Afghanistan. It has a good kick to it in terms of caffeine though!
Out of curiousity, what's the difference between 'instant coffee' and Turkish coffee?
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