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Instant coffee? Starbucks? It's either brilliant marketing or a bomb

Instant coffee? Starbucks? It's either brilliant marketing or a bomb

Posting in Finance

Starbucks entered the instant coffee business Tuesday with "Via." But an informal poll finds that consumers are skeptical of the move.

Starbucks made its big splash into the instant coffee business Tuesday and an informal poll finds that the company may have to overcome a bit of skepticism among consumers.

An informal poll of a handful of Starbucks customers revealed a healthy bit of skepticism. "Instant coffee? C'mon," was a common refrain.

This poll was highly unscientific, but Starbucks has to overcome the image of instant coffee, which is about the same as...mud.

Here's what Starbucks says about its VIA Ready Brew instant coffee:

Starbucks VIA is 100 percent natural roasted Arabica coffee in an instant form that is rich and full bodied just like a fresh-brewed cup of Starbucks coffee. Starbucks VIA is made with a proprietary, U.S. patent-pending microgrind technology to preserve the coffee’s taste, quality and freshness.

The fact sheet from Starbucks says that VIA will average out to be less than a buck a cup.

CEO Howard Schultz (right) adds that the company took 20 years to create VIA and he's willing to serve up taste tests with a healthy dose of social networking to show his brew off.

The stakes couldn't be higher. Starbucks has moved to a value priced model after years of living off of $4 lattes. The company faces tough competition from McDonald's, 7-Eleven, Dunkin Donuts and a host of others.

VIA may just change the game if Starbucks isn't exaggerating. Starbucks claims you can just add cold or hot water to VIA and the coffee is brewed. Sure, you lose some of the showmanship of brewing a cup of coffee, but the instant coffee market is huge---$21 billion globally.

The big question: Can Starbucks battle its coffee rivals by convincing them to stay home with an instant brew?

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure