It took almost twenty years to make this instant. Coffee, that is.
Starbucks is rolling out its instant coffee, Via, across the
The fact they are launching today is compelling as one company employee, who remains anonymous, claimed the product has “been in development for twenty years”. That is a lot of time and money spent on a product, in any company. However, Via may speak to those twenty years in a very short period of time.
In an economy where people are purging their purses for that last bottom-of-the-satchel jingle in hopes of obtain that last drop of Java in a cup, Via may be the answer to attract customers who may be down to only one or two Grandes a day. The Venti crowd is hopeless, as it would take two Vias to make one Venti and there would be no cost savings there.
Chief Executive Howard Schultz touted the new Via as one of the biggest opportunity in the company’s history. The biggest launch in the company’s history will focus on
The true test of the product will be the marketing behind it, more than the flavor in the cup. As one Starbucks manager told me, “I am a coffee purist. I have a double Espresso with a splash of water. I can’t get that on the soccer field in the afternoon. So I take two packs of Via, put then in a bottle of water and I have a great drink.”
It’s not only what Starbucks puts in the cup, though, that will make Via successful. Only Schulz, the marketing genius behind the chains success, would take something as simple as instant coffee and change the name of the product to “ready brew”. On top of that, fitting with their Italianization of all containers large and small, they gave the instant coffee, I mean ready brew, another name with Latin origins. Tres Chic.
In my quest for the ultimate customer from hell concept theory, I inquired as to whether a customer could possibly come to Starbucks, order a Via for $1.00 and obtain a cup of hot water and instantly have a Starbucks brew for a substantial savings. Of course the answer was, “of course”.
For Venti ice coffee drinkers, we have the option now of buying two Vias, asking for a Venti cup of cold water and ice and mixing our own iced coffee. The quandary of course will be whether to leave room for cream or not. By doing so we could save $.60 per drink. Quite a savings.
The remarkable thing is that Starbucks will actually let people order the cup of hot water or glass of iced water. Nobody I know, in the restaurant business would allow that. Yet, Starbucks has that customer friendly mantra that they really do live up to.
Could you see anyone getting away with ordering a gigantic Chicken Marsala entr?e at the Cheesecake Factory, eating half of it, and then returning the next day, doggy bag in hand, to sit at the bar and finish their meal? The bartender would give the guy the boot faster than he could open the Styrofoam container.
Yet, Starbucks will allow Via drinkers to mix their own and take up a chair.
It’s a lesson we should all learn: The customer, at least at Starbucks is always right.
And although the road to the instant brew took almost twenty years now is the perfect time to launch a product that takes less skill to make than a machine, costs less than a cup of brewed coffee and supposedly passes the taste test that nobody can tell the difference.
If the profits are as good could Starbucks one day go the same way as Chock Full of Nuts? Only time will tell.