I don't know what, but something about coffee culture in general -- and Seattle coffee culture in particular -- makes me think that if I ever drink instant coffee, I should do it in private and hide the evidence.
-- Monica Guzman
The Big Blog
War, Pestilence, Famine, and Starbucks Instant Coffee. Those horses all appear in the Book of Revelations, right?
Well it seems like we have all four now:
Starbucks turned Maxwell House on its head. And, while it is now fashionable to bash "Charbucks" it's important to remember that Starbucks did create the gourmet coffee industry in the US.
But instant? Can Starbucks make instant coffee that is actually good? I'm sure it will be better than Folger's, Nescafe, and Taster's Choice, but that doesn't mean it will be good. It's not exactly a high bar.
Even Starbucks expects it to be a challenge. The almost apologize for the entire Instant Coffee business:
I'm willing to give it a try. Apparently a lot of people are. On Wednesday I first heard about this on the news. On the Starbucks website, there was an offer for a free sample. A day later, however, the offer was gone.
Some see this as desperate and foolish move for Starbucks. I'm not so sure.
If Starbucks can actually make a high-quality, instant product it would be a great way to supplement their business. I can't see it cutting into the business the stores do. People won't choose to make their own vs. going to to the store (unless it really is awesome). They'll use the instant when getting to a store is inconvenient. Or after hours. Or in places where they don't have access to their own coffee machine and beans.
If Starbucks can actually make a high-quality instant product, I could see taking it with me when I travel. All I would need to make decent coffee in a hotel room then is a way to boil water. Existing hotel coffee makers can at least to that. Plus many hotel rooms have microwave ovens. And there are plenty of portable boiling tools. It could be a great alternative to the awful coffee that often comes with a room.
If Starbucks can actually make a high-quality instant product, I could see people taking it work with them. It could provide a convenient way to make decent coffee at their desk. Not all offices supply coffee, and those that do don't always supply good coffee.
If Starbucks can actually make a high-quality instant product, it could extend their brand into a new, but related field. One of the reasons Starbucks has had problems in recent years is they lost focus.
They expanded into music. They experimented with full service restaurants. The experimented with furniture. The sold books, CDs, plush toys, and all sorts of things in the stores. They added hot breakfast sandwiches. It was all related to the brand, but it did get away from their core expertise -- coffee.
And it distracted from the atmosphere. A Starbucks isn't a store. It's a coffee shop. And there is an ethos surrounding coffee shops through the ages. They have often spoken of the Third Place. It's not work, and it's not home. But it can be an important place in someone's life. The over emphasis on selling stuff distracted from that.
But Starbucks, like any publicly traded corporation, must grow. It must generate additional value for its owners, the shareholders. If Starbucks can actually make a high-quality instant product, this gives them a growth path that is still tied to their core product -- coffee.
I'm skeptical, but I'll give it at shot.