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New Coffee Maker May Perk Up Supermarket Coffee Sales

CINCINNATI - It's time to reset the coffee aisle again, now that the Procter & Gamble Co. here has helped develop a new coffee maker that allows consumers to make Starbucks-quality coffee in their own homes, at a fraction of the cost.

The Home Cafe system was developed by P&G, which manufacturers Folgers and Millstone, in conjunction with appliance maker Black & Decker, which is licensing it to Mr. Coffee, Krups, and Hamilton Beach. P&G hopes the new system, which will retail for about $60 when it hits stores in May, will replace conventional drip coffee makers, just as drip coffee makers superseded percolators in the 1970s. The machines use a tea bag-like pouch filled with coffee. An 18-count box of the pods is expected to cost $4.

P&G officials are hailing Home Cafe as a "huge development" in the industry, calling it "one of the biggest innovations the industry has seen."

At home, coffee consumption has been declining since 1998, while sales at coffeehouses, like Starbucks, have jolted through the roof. Domestic coffee consumption in 2002 was down 14.2 percent, according to the Mintel market research firm, while coffeehouse sales have jumped at least 1,200 percent since then.

The manufacturers expect Home Cafe to be the "hot" gift this Christmas, but in a totally unscientific taste test conducted last evening on a New York City newscast, Home Cafe coffee came in third behind a local diner's and Starbucks'.
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