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Starbucks’ VIA instant-coffee bet
Can Starbucks persuade Americans to embrace instant coffee?
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tarbucks “helped produce a nation of coffee snobs willing to pay $4 a cup,” said Lance Benzel in The Colorado Springs Gazette. Now it's trying to get “the very coffee aficionados who honed their tastes—and raised their standards—with Starbucks” to embrace its new instant coffee, VIA Ready Brew. VIA hits stores nationwide Tuesday, and Starbucks has “high hopes” it can get coffee fans to rethink how they drink coffee—again.

It’s doing more than hoping, said Emily Bryson York in Advertising Age. The famously advertising-shy company is spending real money to promote its “much-lauded instant product”—it launched the VIA ad campaign on Saturday Night Live. Instant coffee is a $17 billion market, globally, with American coffee drinkers “a small minority," so there’s clearly room for growth.

The "success or failure" could come down to taste, said Trent Rowe in The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla. In my taste test, the instant Italian Roast could “best be described as a nondescript brew,” maybe even a little “wimpy.” The price isn’t, though—at 12 packets for $10.

That’s kind of “expensive for instant coffee, but not for a Starbucks coffee,” said Talk About Coffee. And while the independent taste reviews have been “mixed,” they “trend toward the positive.” If nothing else, VIA lives up to its “ad line —‘not your mother’s instant coffee’—with plenty of room to spare,” and it might be a nice option for hikes or late nights at the office.

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