Starbucks Poised to Launch 'Soluble' Coffee

Via Brand Called 'Breakthrough' Unlike Instants of Old

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Premium java giant Starbucks is venturing into what some would consider lowbrow territory with a soluble-coffee product called Via, according to three executives familiar with the matter.

Starbucks will soon launch its VIA instant coffee product.
Starbucks will soon launch its VIA instant coffee product. Credit: Hoag Levins

Starbucks declined to comment on the launch, which is said to be a long-term pet project of CEO Howard Schultz and as such will get a significant marketing push.

Starbucks will begin testing the soluble coffee -- a term that conjures up images of instant brands such as Folgers, Sanka and Brim -- by selling it in Starbucks cafes as early as next month. It's unclear as yet whether the company will also extend the product to supermarkets, where it already has a presence with ground Starbucks-branded coffee.

The chain is announcing its plans next week. More information is expected to be unveiled at the company's annual meeting March 18.

Although the new product seems well-positioned for the current economy in which premium-priced coffee can be a tough sell, Via is not just a sign of the times. The instant product has been many years in the making and is designed to mimic the taste of store-bought Starbucks -- the point the company is expected to make in its marketing for the brand.

"It's a breakthrough in soluble coffee," said a person close to the project.



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