COFFEE: Starbucks Percolates Plans for Major VIA Expansion

In a bid to rouse further interest in its convenience-oriented VIA Ready Brew, Starbucks is brewing up big plans for the product line with a goal of saturating 37,000 U.S. grocery, mass and drug stores — including 25,000 Kroger, Walmart, Safeway, Target, Costco and CVS locations — by the end of next month. Total distribution for the product, which originally launched in September 2009 in 12,000 retail and foodservice locations, is set to surpass Starbucks’ initial expectations in customer adoption and performance.

“This marks a significant milestone for Starbucks as we meet customers where they are looking for great coffee; in our stores and on the shelves where groceries are sold,” noted Howard Schultz, chairman, president and CEO of the Seattle-based company. “We know people are looking for products that will make their lives easier.”

“We know our customers like Starbucks coffee,” added Cindy Rantanen, VP of grocery at Cincinnati-based Kroger, noting that the product would “satisfy customers who also want a convenient option for their busy, on-the-go lifestyle.”

Made using a proprietary, U.S. patent-pending microground technology to preserve taste and quality, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew is 100 percent natural roasted arabica coffee in an instant form. The Colombia and Italian Roast varieties retail for a suggested $2.95 for three pre-portioned sticks and a suggested $7.49 for eight sticks, while the suggested retail prices for the Decaffeinated Italian Roast variety are $2.95 for three sticks and $7.49 for seven sticks.

This month, on, consumers can customize a virtual coffee mug by uploading photos from their computer or Facebook pages, and adding their own phrases. The completed mug can then be shared with friends or posted on Facebook. Participating consumers will receive a coupon for $1 off a package of Starbucks VIA, while supplies last.
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