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Originally published January 6, 2014 at 4:30 PM | Page modified January 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM

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Starbucks adds to Via instant-coffee lineup

The Seattle coffee giant says it’s launching its first instant latte drinks — a vanilla latte and a caffe mocha — as it seeks to reinvigorate the instant-coffee market.


Seattle Times business reporter

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Fans of Starbucks’ vanilla latte and caffe mocha will now be able to enjoy them with a pour of water and a stir, as the company seeks to shake up the stagnating market for instant coffee.

Starbucks says it is releasing instant-coffee versions of two of its popular espresso and milk drinks at its online store and at most of its locations in the U.S. and Canada.

The beverages, sold under the Seattle coffee giant’s Via instant-coffee brand, will be available at grocery stores nationwide in the spring. It’s the first time milk-based beverages make it to the Via lineup, which also includes lemonades and iced coffee. A four-container pack will cost $6.95, the company said.

Starbucks’ move to strengthen its instant-coffee offerings underscores the company’s effort to develop its packaged food business, an area where it sees much promise for growth but where it has met challenges.

The market for instant coffee has been lackluster, due to increased competition from single-serve brewing systems and other ready-to-drink coffee options, market-research firm Mintel said in a recent report.

Mintel says Via sales dropped to $66.8 million in a 52-week period ending in mid-June 2013, from $67.9 million during a similar period ending in mid-2012.

Having caffeine fiends drink Starbucks outside the coffee shop is a key target for the company, which in addition to Via, also sells ground coffee and cups for single-serve brewing systems, including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ K-Cup and its own Verisimo machine.

In the 2013 fiscal year ended in September, Starbucks saw its consumer packaged goods’ net revenue rise nearly 11 percent to about $1 billion.

In an earnings call in October, Starbucks executive John Culver said investors should expect “a lot of new innovation” in the grocery segment.

Starbucks also said Monday it is adding a new seasonal flavor to its latte roster: caramel flan latte, a drink inspired by the custard dessert. The company said the beverage was popular in regional testing last year, so now it’s taking it nationwide.

Ángel González; 206-464-2250 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle



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