16 Nov 2009
Vegas hotel, 9:30 AM after a very long and mildly successful evening at the Craps table – I was in need of coffee. My choices, wander around the hotel with my hair mussed up, breath smelling bad, and slightly stank from the night before; order $3 room service coffee while my caffeine withdraw headache starts to set in, turn the tap water on super hot and use the convenient VIA packet for the starter cup of the day.
Scenario two – corporate America, anywhere USA. Employee needing an afternoon pick me up heads into the breakroom only to find the last ounce of coffee boiling on the hot plate. Need I say more?
Let me start by saying this is not a commercial for Starbucks VIA. I’m not here to debate the atrocities of big corporate america. In fact, I’m quite impressed with the Starbucks model, although they have taken some wrong turns that show their vulnerability. Most owners of drive up coffee stands, local coffee shops, etc have Starbucks to thank for the immense rise in popularity of the huge margin $5 coffee drink.
With that out of the way, it’s time for the honest review of Starbucks VIA. Since I bought my DeLonghi espresso machine, I’ve probably only spent $50 at Starbucks in the last 2 years. Recently, they have given me a new reason to visit their store. In mid-October, I went into Starbucks to exhaust a gift card received for my birthday. Like most patrons I was invited to participate in a ‘blind’ taste test. After tasting the brew versus the roast, I made my selection only to learn that I selected wrong. Don’t discredit my review from that statement. In hind sight, both drinks were so dang hot that it was truly difficult to identify the flavors. I decided to buy a three pack.
The next day, I investigated my purchase. I heated up some water and put the cute, convenient packet to the test. This is NOT gourmet coffee. This is NOT my normal strong Americano with a hint of crema on top. This is, however, a quality instant coffee that rivals what most people get from their Mr. Coffee.
In spite of the recent negative press the VIA push is receiving, my taste buds say that Starbucks has a good product here. Do they risk alienating their customers with the sales push? Are they diluting their custom coffee brand? Are they weakening the brand or providing an on the go alternative that will give them more strength? Only time will tell, but it seems obvious that Starbucks is committed to this promotion (their first ever single product promotion campaign).
- The swirl (ok, no swirling the coffee, but…): Good color, no crema upon stir, good consistency, all coffee seems to dissolve in the water
- The sniff: Good earthy smell, caramel and little spice
- The sip: Smooth, good flavor, acidic, probably worthy of the name Starbucks
- Value: I’m not sure at $1 per packet is a good deal for the convenience. Get it down to .60 cents per packet and I’d probably have 4-5 cups of it per week in various situations.
I not interested in the story on how they did it (some micro-grind technology). I’m not swayed by the clever packets and earthy icons telling me all they ways I can drink VIA. I care that it tastes good. If it tastes good and is a good value, it will sell. Bottom line, the taste is there. The value is almost there.
If anyone at Starbucks is listening – skip the hard sell, save your money on the TV, media blitz. Capitalize on your millions + daily customers and get it in the hands of the consumers by giving them a free three pack. If they like it, they’ll be back
DOTD (drink of the day) – Tonight – dinner at mom’s house. Wine was your basic 2008 Yellow Tail Cabernet Merlot blend. Not much to say about it other than it was very fruity on the front end and spicey on the back end. A very young wine that obviously did not spend much time in the wine-making process and rushed to market. You?