Java Giants Brace for McCafe

How Rivals Are Positioning Themselves as McDonald's Gears Up

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CHICAGO ( -- McDonald's impending coffee launch is giving rivals the jitters.

With the fast feeder ready to flood the airwaves with McCafé advertising, the competition is scurrying to get its messages heard. The key battlegrounds are shaping up to be value, ethics and sustainability.

McCafe competitors

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"We've proved our coffee vs. one of our competitors in a national taste test," Dunkin' Chief Branding Officer Frances Allen said, citing the chain's "Dunkin' Beat Starbucks" campaign last fall. "We're very proud of it, and I don't think that we feel we need to change our strategy."

That said, Dunkin' has been doing 99¢ latte promotions, and offered 50¢ iced coffees nationwide last week. And Ms. Allen added that all its espresso beans are fair-trade certified. When asked why Dunkin' doesn't promote that, she said, "We might."

At Caribou, about 60% of its coffee is Rainforest Alliance certified. "It goes so much further than just saying you paid a fair price for it," said Caribou spokeswoman Lauren Mihajlov, explaining that the certification involves environmental standards and worker conditions.

Caribou is competing on price, too, with $1 coffee on Mondays.

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