Friday, February 13, 2009

Starbucks to begin selling instant coffee

AP Business Writer AP - Friday, February 13

NEW YORK - Starbucks Corp. said Thursday it will unveil a new instant coffee as part of its attempt to turn around sluggish sales and shed its reputation for pricey lattes.

The company has been working on the product for more than 20 years and has a patent pending on the technology that will allow it to "absolutely replicate the taste of Starbucks coffee in an instant form," spokesman Vivek Varma said in an e-mail to employees.

Varma said Starbucks will offer details of the new instant coffee, reportedly called Via, beginning next week. Samples will be arriving in stores on Wednesday, he said.

The company did not say when it will begin selling the coffee in its stores.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz is expected to formally announce the product on Tuesday in New York.

Starbucks has been looking to reposition itself away from its reputation as the purveyor of $4 fancy coffee drinks. It reported a big drop in U.S. same-store sales _ or sales at stores open at least a year _ in its fiscal first quarter at the end of January.

Earlier this week, Starbucks said it will begin offering value meal-like "breakfast pairings" for $3.95 to appeal to cost-conscious customers.

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