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Starbucks to introduce instant coffee

http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattl...

Wait, wasn't this WHY we started drinking Starbucks? That we DIDN'T want instant?

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  1. I don't care for Starbucks, but from my experience, a bad drip coffee is still better than a good instant coffee. I have a Keurig and yes, instant is faster, but in the overall scheme of things a few seconds isn't going to make that much of a difference. I can't imagine that the test would to replicated in instant form.

    1. Good point, now that these pod coffees are popular and Starbucks is already offering their own pods for the machine...instant coffee at the cafe is not a stretch.

      5 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        It isn't for the cafes, it is a home product.

        1. re: AHan

          Sold in a jar like Sanka? Still not a stretch given the K cups out there.

          1. re: HillJ

            I don't get it. You can get a filter attachment for the pod makers and put in any grounds you want, essentially getting instant coffee without the instant flavor. I just wonder who the instant will attract. The people who like the plain drip probably already use the grounds, and the people who like the fancier, flavored coffees will go in the store. Are they planning on putting the flavor of a mocha latte into an instant coffee?

            1. re: queencru

              A few sorts I think the instant will be attractive to: People who almost never drink coffee and so don't want a machine (or to keep beans on hand), people who literally never drink coffee but want an emergency bailout in case a guest insists on _something_ (this presumes it's a passably drinkable cup of coffee), office sorts without a coffee machine in the office and with no desire to bring coffee making gear with them, someone who wants a low-cost cup of coffee while on the go (this is a really attractive possibility for me). If they make it in decaf, it'd be convenient to keep on hand as an afternoon option (we have regular in our burr grinder and don't drink enough decaf to make it worth stocking the beans).

              1. re: queencru

                I think this about offering choice. Let's face it, we're all guilty of enjoying choice, finding those products we love and eventually stick with. If this idea bombs, Starbucks will move onto something else. If Starbucks doesn't know about marketing...who the heck does.

        2. Starbucks coffee tastes like crap to begin with. i'm hardly going to do a happy dance over an instant version of something i don't like to drink even when it's brewed fresh.

          if Peet's were to come out with something, i might kick up my heels...

          15 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            And Peet's is burnt trash, so I'd dismiss anything they came up with out of hand. On the other hand, I'll definitely be trying this stuff at least one time.

            1. re: ccbweb

              see, i think Starbucks (a.k.a. "Charbucks") tastes burnt. they over-roast their beans. Peet's, on the other hand, tastes much cleaner & smoother to me.

              to each his/her own.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                And I wouldn't drink Peet's if someone paid me to. To each his or her own.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Why don't you give Starbucks non-dark roasts a shot? Sounds like the dark roast is your big issue.

                  1. re: AHan

                    Why does everyone always try to convert others or feel that people must be missing something if they don't like some item or product? goodhealthgourmet doesn't like Starbucks' coffee; no reason he or she needs to keep trying it until he or she does. (Not to mention, I'd be willing to bet money goodhealthgourmet tried a "lighter roast" Starbucks to see whether it was just the darker roasts, he or she sounds like he or she knows what he or she likes.) Starbucks has a clear style that all of their roasts, dark or not, follow. Not everyone likes it. (Thus, to each his or her own.)

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      Oh come on ccb (grinning here) we aren't tru CH's if we aren't trying to convert or introduce someone to something!!! To each his/her own...is completely diff in food love speak.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        A fair point that I knew as soon as I hit "post" or whatever the button says!

                        And I'd happily buy goodhealthgourmet a cup of coffee at Starbucks and I'm certain that he or she would very politely take a sip and tell me "yep, over-roasted, burnt and disgusting, would you like it?"

                      2. re: ccbweb

                        ccbweb, to clarify, i'm a "she" :)

                        truth be told, i don't like light roasts, period. i'm a fan of big, bold coffee. but you're correct, in the interest of giving them a fair shake, i have tried other, lighter roasts @ Starbucks...unfortunately i found them to be watery & insipid, while somehow still bitter/burnt-tasting.

                        sadly we don't have my beloved Peet's here, so unless i happen to be in the vicinity of an independent coffee house, i do find myself having to default to Starbucks when i'm out & about and craving a cup. i can tolerate their Sumatra and espresso roasts, so if they're brewing the former (which is rare) i'll get that, and if not, i order an Americano.

                        for the record, i'm not just anti-Starbucks. back in SoCal i also hated the coffee at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. great teas, but their coffee always tasted "off" to me.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          fair enough. In my experience many people who just say it tastes burnt have never tried more than one variety there, and whne exposed to others have been satisfied. Likewise, those who feel the need to slam SB for the prices have never been and do not understand that a regular cup of coffee is no more expensive than their competition.

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I have to agree with you there. I prefer darker roasts most of the time, but don't like the more burnt/bitter tasting coffees. Not all dark roasts have that same burnt flavor that Starbucks seems to have. I just don't think Starbucks is the best place to go for drip coffee. There are other, cheaper places that do that much better.

                      1. re: queencru

                        in some cities. not all. i lived places with much better choices than starbucks and places where there weren't.

                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Whether you like a darker roast or not is indeed a question of taste. But both Peet's and Starbucks roast their beans to the same general level of darkness. They're known in the industry for being among the darker roasts around. Some, myself included, prefer this darker roast, especially for drip coffee. Others prefer lighter, almost under-roasted beans like those from, say, Blue Bottle. I find this is only worthwhile if you're using a Clover, which allows you to precisely calibrate temperature, pressure, etc. to achieve a very specific taste. In that case, you don't want the darker roast overwhelming the effect of your tweaks.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Not sure what you mean by this. Starbucks roasts to a widely varying degree of darkness, they are not all the same, not by a long shot. Are you going by old information?

                          1. re: AHan

                            I'm pretty sure my information is up to date. To clarify, I'm talking about their regular coffees, which are well known to be roasted darker than most competitors. That's how they got the nickname "Charbucks" and why they created a separate line of "light note" blends.

                    3. I'm basically a tea drinker now, and keep instant coffee, regular and decaf, for friends who drop in. I don't want to use up any of my limited counter space for a coffeemaker. I might buy some of the Starbucks instant. Not make a special trip to get it, mind you, only if I happen to be meeting a friend there.

                      1. Is the instant coffee priced at 5 bucks a cup too?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Mellicita

                          This seems somewhat sacrilegious. While primarily a 'bucks girl, I must confess that I actually like Caribou and Seattle's Best (Henry's Blend, mmmmm) better, but there really aren't that many in Chicago. A former office had those pods. They were vile.

                          1. re: Whosyerkitty

                            Maybe you like Seattle's Best because they're owned by Starbucks?

                            1. re: monku

                              Yes. But it's different. Even same types are more mellow.

                              And they, even when they were hot really didn't put Seattle's Best shops in my area, except in some bookstores. They do have the chain bookstores sewed up, don't they?

                          2. re: Mellicita

                            Why would it be? The drip or french press coffee isn't $5 a cup.

                            1. re: Mellicita

                              Nothing at Starbucks is $5 a cup, and their regular coffee is less expensive that Dunkin Donuts.

                            2. I don't get it. Starbuck became popular based on its original business plan with hand crafted coffee drinks in comfortable, inviting digs and decent pricing.

                              Every time the sales take a hit, they try to change the original plan by adding sandwiches or bizarre coffee drinks or turning out not as hand crafted drinks as before. And the further away they get from the original plan, the more they seem to fade.

                              Every Starbucks fan I know fondly remembers the day when they followed what made them successful. And now... instant coffee.

                              Never underestimate the power of businesses to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

                              26 Replies
                              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                Or open 4,000 cafes and wonder why they can't cover the rent.
                                Seth, it ain't always about the wonderful product, right?
                                The business model has been approached by kings and sank in over exposure and over visioning. Would you like a latte with your pink slip? Talk about poor planning.

                                1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                  Well, the stagnant business model apparently wasn't enough to help business expand so I can see them trying to branch out or try new or different things, it just seems to me they have a knack for picking the WRONG things to branch into.

                                  Wouldn't it be lovely if they're next "trick" was to start to offer all fair trade coffee, and go back to organic or at least no-hormone milk (instead of "on request," which at the stores I went to meant "never available," and now it's completely unavailable everywhere), and some kind of local support programs to offset the fact that the beans are not locally roasted? You know, part of their profits going to a local school or something. Or at least bring in some locally made baked goods - the bakery they offer is just so awful.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    rockandroll..SB does have a successful Make Your Mark employee volunteer program that operates to support local (where cafes exist) and international programs. I can't forget or fault SB for everything. The product & employees support that company wide program.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      There isn't enough Fair Trade coffee in the world (literally) for Starbucks to be able to do that. (And Starbucks is significantly responsible for growing the market for Fair Trade coffee as is.) When they had organic milk on offer, not enough customers wanted it at the additional cost (I think it was 30 cents or so more than a non-organic latte). So in order to make the numbers work out from their standpoint they had to use shelf-stable aseptic boxed milk and they had trouble getting enough supplied to keep their stores appropriately stocked.

                                      When they stopped stocking organic, they did move to non rBGH added milk.
                                      http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/busines...

                                      What's the issue with locally roasted? The beans aren't going to be local anywhere in the US. Does roasting provide enough good paying jobs to worry much about that specific part of the business? (I'm asking, I honestly don't know at all.)

                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                        Well, I buy all my coffee from a local roaster, and everyone else who does helps keep them in business. It is a LOCAL business, and not a corporate owned chain. Thus, the money that I and others spend there help keep the locally owned business open, which keeps money going back into my local economy and employs local people, all of whom are spending their paychecks locally. To question the logic of supporting a local importer of anything vs. a corporate is the same whether you're talking a small clothing shop, an independent hardware store or a coffee shop. Nobody is producing all the hammers and nails in their hardware store locally, but (for me) I prefer to put my money back into the local establishment and employ local business owners who support and strengthen my local economy instead of going to home depot.

                                        To HillJ, my local roaster has about 20 varieties of coffee and nearly all are fair trade, some are also organic, and some are either fair trade OR organic. I don't buy that it would be "impossible" for starbucks to do anything given their breadth, profit and buying power, they just don't prefer to.

                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                          r&r, you lost me. I wasn't discussing their buying power; I mentioned their Make Your Mark employee program that supports local communities and international organizations. Perhaps you could re-read my reply. Or not..

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            Sorry Hillj, incorrect reference to you.

                                          2. re: rockandroller1

                                            Starbucks in my area are very involved with the communities they serve, far more than most local businesses are.
                                            Maybe you should be supporting LOCALLY owned websites instead of this one which is owned by an international media conglomerate?

                                            1. re: AHan

                                              Actually, I support lots of local websites, including those built with local graphic designers. I also support some national websites. I have been known to go to Target occasionally as well, though if there were a good local alternative, I'd prefer it. I'm not completely anti corporate chain, but when there are other choices I could easily make that would support a local over a chain, such as a coffee place, I do so. Your snark is not necessary.

                                            2. re: rockandroller1

                                              Starbucks could, but won't, go with Direct Trade which is MUCH better for the grower, but requires a lot of effort to set up.

                                              http://www.wayofcoffee.com/index.php/...

                                        2. re: Seth Chadwick

                                          The "stick with the original plan" thing is a nice bit of nostalgia but the market and world at large have changed over the last 20+ years that they've been serving coffee. They need to evolve to meet their market.

                                          1. re: ferret

                                            Well, the whole argument, at least to me, is whether doing instant coffees and evolution to meet the market or is it a cynical attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator as envisioned by the B school grads?

                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                              ITA, Phaedrus. How many times have we seen this same pattern--take whats good/great, try to expand, and in the process abandon what made you great in the first place?

                                              Organic is too expensive, no one will notice regular milk, or HFCS in the syrup...and those baristas can be replaced by machines to save on training expenses--genius!

                                              1. re: coney with everything

                                                Well, it certainly is the modus operandi of most businesses. Take a great product, cost reduce all the uniqueness and quality out of it and then lose your shirt because people move on to other prodycts because its not the product they remember. there are exceptions. remember New Coke?

                                            2. re: ferret

                                              They over saturated their own market. Downtown Chicago practically has one on every corner, several have two in the same block.

                                              1. re: ferret

                                                That isn't universal. We all know places that have thrived because they haven't changed their menu/plan/concept and continue to draw the crowds because they offer a good product as a fair price with good service.

                                                Starbucks keeps trying to change the current plan that isn't working and then finds out the change isn't working either. Why not look back and see that what was working was their original plan?

                                                At the very least, why not talk to their customers? Honestly, I haven't heard a single person I know who is an avid coffee drinker muse over how great things would be if only we had instant coffee again.

                                                What's next? A return to Postum?

                                                1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                  They are just repeating the growth oriented strategies of the dot com companies. You can't just sit still and do nothing. Pretty much ignoring the fact that there are institutions that are thriving BECAUSE they have not changed a thing.

                                                    1. re: ferret

                                                      Arthur Bryant's BBQ. They left the barbecue (product, intrinsic and raison d'etre) the same, they just changed the marketing( extrinsic, perception).

                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                        Sorry, but that's hardly analogous. Bryant's isn't competing at the same level. Operations on the scale of Starbucks always need to stay relevant. If you haven't noticed, Starbucks has lots of competition at all levels that they didn't necessarily have to address 5 or 10 years ago. Hell, coffee beverages by the cup were an evolutionary process at Starbucks -- their original business was selling roasted beans.

                                                        1. re: ferret

                                                          Instant coffee is relevant? After cultivating the discerning coffee enthusiasts and in fact driving that culture for years, you go with instant coffee because some idiot with an MBA tells you so? Some times you get to where you need to go and then you maintain because pushing it any further will kill your business. Starbucks expanded fast and furiously and then couldn't keep up, in fact no one could keep up the same pace. It's analogous to a Ponzi scheme with revamping the business, in the end the pace will kill you.

                                                          1. re: Phaedrus

                                                            you know though - my only thought on the subject is that there ARE times that instant coffee is useful/necessary and should you be in that scenario any improvement is a good thing. i mean it's not like they are giving up regular coffee.

                                                    2. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                      Seth, do you believe the popularity of the instant, one cup at a time machines, using K cups and so forth (Starbucks offers k-cups) may have anything to do with this decision? Same instant java in a diff jar...

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        To be honest, I don't know. Considering Starbucks past grasps at trying to revive lagging sales, I think it may be an attempt to throw something against the wall and hope that it sticks. But that is strictly an opinion.

                                                        What I do know is that when Starbucks did it's little "close all stores for three hours of training" a year ago (Feb. 2008) for training and "getting back to the basics," the Starbucks fans I know where hoping that when Starbucks re-opened, they focus would be on what made SB famous to begin with.

                                                        It was fairly obvious the focus was a pep rally for employees and tips on how to use the current machinery more efficiently, etc., but wasn't a return to the basic of hand-crafted coffee drinks. The big promo of getting back to basics failed because they didn't do that at all.

                                                        Now, we have instant coffee in the mix. If this doesn't fly (and I would be willing to bet it will flop rather quickly), I guarantee there will be another new plan to revitalize sales that won't have anything to do with going back to the original, successful plan.

                                                        1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                                          I was told by a SB shift manager this week that the staff had a recent meeting and training for new "value meal" promotions a la McDonalds & BK value menus. When I heard that, I questioned who is leading who in the race for limited consumer quick meal dollars. Time will tell.

                                                2. Perhaps they are making an instant coffee to make up for the fact their stores are so hard to find

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. A little more info, after perusing the posts below. The instant is not a replacement for the brewed coffee in the shops. It will be sold in boxes of packets for home/office/other use. Is it for you? Probably not, but does it have a place, especially if it is an upgrade from the Nescafes of the world? Definitely! For the occasional drinker who doesn't even own a coffee maker, or is in a situation where you can get boiling water but nothing else (think camping, office, dorm room) it may not be a bad alternative. It's not a replacement for the $200 yuppie pod machine either. If you enjoy that process, which I don't, feel free and enjoy that. Hey-- I'm no fan of the canned or bottled coffee drinks either, but if others want to drink them, and they DO, then good for them, it doesn't diminish my enjoyment of real coffee.. I don't feel the need to question the motives of the supplier.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: AHan

                                                        Schultz was interviewed on CNBC and said that instant coffee makes up 40% of coffee sales outside of the US, over 80% in the UK and over 60% in Japan. Since that's what people want to drink, then it's a business opportunity for Starbucks to expand their packaged business.

                                                        1. re: PorkButt

                                                          I would assume that it is an opportunity, else they wouldn't be doing it! I wonder how "instant" is defined in the context of his numbers? When I was in Tokyo ready-to-drink coffee in a self-heating can was an extremely popular thing.

                                                          1. re: AHan

                                                            Coffee-in-a-can has been ubiquitous in Asia for many years (well before Frapuccino or other iced products appeared here)..

                                                          2. re: PorkButt

                                                            Seriously- they do not need this extra encouragement in the UK. It's so hard to find non-instant over there. I didn't see that much of an issue in Japan. Most of the time I ordered coffee there it seemed like it wasn't instant, while that was not the case in the UK. I am wondering if by "instant" in Japan, they include the canned beverages that come out of the vending machine hot. I thought that was pretty neat.

                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                              Most of the brewed coffee I've had in Japan was absolutely terrible. Weak, thin, acidic. The canteens at company offices and factories were the worst.

                                                              I've only had hot canned green tea out of a vending machine. It came out immediately so I presume that there is a heated compartment in the machine. But wouldn't that ruin coffee? I can't drink brewed coffee that's been sitting on a burner for more than a few minutes.

                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                Seems like the blogger misses the point entirely. In what way does someone buying Starbucks instant coffee off the shelves at Costco change my Starbucks cafe experience?