Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Dump the Sanka, seize the Starbucks Via?


STARBUCKS/Now that Starbucks is in the instant coffee business, will you mix up a cup?

CEO Howard Schultz wants to introduce Americans to Via — the company’s own instant brew — and he promises it is better than that jarred stuff your parents drink. It’s so good, he says, that it will help the slumping company grab a share of the $17 billion global instant coffee market now dominated by brands like Sanka and Nescafe.

“This is 100 percent arabica Starbucks coffee, the same exact coffee that goes into the 50 million cups we sell every week,” Howard Schultz told Reuters in an interview.STARBUCKS/

“The reason why instant has such a bad name is that it doesn’t taste very good. It’s not fresh coffee, it’s usually chemically treated,” said Schultz, who added that Via replicates the taste of Starbucks brewed coffee.

Before the product even hit shelves, critics were opining on

Starbucks eyes breakfast bargains, dumps the jet


STARBUCKS/Once upon a time, Starbucks had nowhere to go but up.

My, how times have changed.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz in July said the upscale coffee chain would not combine menu items and sell them at a discount, a move made popular by fast-food chains like McDonald’s.

“We’re not going to go down the fast-food lane,” Schultz told investors back then — when the company’s business was hitting the skids in a housing-led slowdown.

Lawsuit against Starbucks goes up in smoke


STARBUCKS/Uh, dude, you forgot something.

That was essentially the message from a California appeals court to a group of unsuccessful Starbucks applicants who sued the Seattle-based coffee chain over its job application, which they claimed asked an illegal question about marijuana convictions.

California law bars employers from asking job applicants to disclose marijuana convictions that are more than two years old, and Starbucks’ application asks for seven years’ worth of criminal history.

Hey, get your own Joe!


Whether you cast your vote for Joe the Plumber’s candidate, John McCain, or for Barack Obama and his No. 2 Joe Biden, it’s worth a free cup of joe at U.S. Starbucks stores on election day.

You don’t even need to prove that you went to the polls to collect your free 12-ounce drip coffee. Starbucks just trusts you to be a good citizen.

Starbucks gets fi(RED) up in the Big Easy


Starbucks gathered its top managers this week in New Orleans for a morale-building leadership soiree and for its final act, its famous chief executive Howard Schultz yielded the stage to rock star Bono.

The U2 singer and philanthropist, who co-founded the (Red) project that develops co-branded products with companies like Apple and Gap, was on scene to help Starbucks announce its own (Red) product line launching on Nov. 27. A portion of the proceeds from Starbucks’ (Red) product sales will go to the Global Fund to invest in AIDS programs in Africa, a key coffee-growing region for Starbucks.

Finally, a rewards program for coffee addicts



Your Grande Latte addiction is about to pay off.

Coffee chain Starbucks, which has spent most of this year working to boost traffic and sales at its U.S. shops, on Nov. 4 is rolling out a new rewards program called Starbucks Gold.

For an annual membership fee of $25, Gold card users will save 10 percent on most purchases at participating Starbucks – from espresso drinks to espresso machines.

Starbucks hopes you’ll fall for its new autumn menu


hot-chocolate.jpgNeed a sweet treat after this week’s stock market stress?

A Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, one three new “Signature” hot chocolate drinks introduced by Starbucks, could fit the bill. A tall, 12-ounce drink with whip cream packs a whopping 460 calories (with nonfat milk) — think of it as a doughnut in a cup.

This week, Starbucks also introduced two hot Piadini sandwiches. One is veggie with portobello mushroom, spinach, feta, ricotta and egg. The carnivore version is made with mild cheddar, sausage and egg. 

Christmas is coming early this year, but not at Starbucks


starbucksholiday.JPG Christmas may be starting early for many retailers, but that isn’t the case at Starbucks.

While department stores like Macy’s are already in full holiday mode — hoping to get a jump on what is expected to be a dismal holiday season — the Seattle coffee shop chain is waiting until after Halloween and after Thanksgiving to serve up its holiday cheer.

How green is your coffee habit?


garbage12.JPGDespite the wide range of organic and other “green” coffee on the market, 67 percent of coffee drinkers who frequent coffee shops admit to discarding used paper cups into a regular trash can rather than a recycling bin, according to a new survey of 1007 Internet users conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by Tata Group’s Good Earth Coffee.
That means about 28 billion cups (100 million pounds of paper) end up in U.S. landfills every year.

The study also showed that 42 percent of Americans believe it takes less time for a paper coffee cup to decompose (20 years) than a newspaper (2 weeks). Not to mention the fact that many paper coffee cups can’t be recycled or composted because of the materials with which they are coated.garbage21.JPG

McDonald’s brews up anti-coffee snob ad blitz


four_drinks.jpgMcDonald’s, fancy coffee’s new kid on the block, appears to be stealing a page from the U.S. Presidential campaigns with an advertising blitz targeting the alleged coffee snobbery promoted by its upscale rival from Seattle.

McDonald’s restaurants in western Washington State — Starbucks’ home turf — have taken to the Internet with, a site that provides a menu of McDonald’s new McCafe coffee drinks as well as tips for how to intervene when someone you love is addicted to “snobby iced espresso.”