STARBUCKS BREWING TASTE FOR NEW AGENCY

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Starbucks Coffee Co. threw its arms around the world last week, announcing a search for an agency to guide the brand's national and international growth.

Ending its five-year partnership with EvansGroup, Seattle, which late last year created the coffee roaster's first TV spots, Starbucks within three months will choose a larger agency from an undisclosed list of contenders.

The marketer most likely will begin overseas expansion in the second half of this year, through joint ventures in Europe and Japan, said John Rohs, an analyst with Wertheim Schroder & Co., New York.

"It's a much different market than the U.S.," Mr. Rohs said of Europe. "They drink some pretty decent coffee over there, and we have the tendency to drink swill.

"But their chances are still good because you can go anywhere.... and you aren't going to find any better beans than Starbucks."

Although Starbucks has been mum about overseas growth, the marketer last June created a Starbucks International division, appointing as its president Howard Behar, former exec VP-sales and operations of the domestic unit.

Whichever agency wins the account will probably see spending grow substantially beyond the current $7 million mark.

A joint venture with Pepsi-Cola Co. could bear fruit when the two marketers begin testing a bottled coffee beverage next month. Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, is handling the launch.

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