Starbucks’ new Blonde Roast coffee debuted nationally on Tuesday, offering consumers a milder brewed coffee option for the first time in the coffeehouse chain’s 40-year history.
The milder roast offerings include two new flavors: Veranda Blend, described as “mellow and soft,” and Willow Blend, which also is available in a decaf version and is described as “bright and clean.”
Starting Tuesday, the Blonde brews will be available in company-operated and select licensed locations, in addition to the medium-roast Pike Place and various dark-roast options. Packaged versions of the Blonde Roast are also available in Starbucks units and grocery and retail outlets as whole bean coffee, K-cup options and as VIA Ready Brew instant coffee.
Starbucks officials said the new Blonde roast represents a potential $1 billion opportunity designed to appeal to the estimated 54 million coffee drinkers in the United States — or 40 percent of consumers — who say they prefer a lighter roast.
The Seattle-based coffeehouse chain has spent four decades building a following for the bolder dark-roasted style of coffee that has long characterized the brand.
The Blonde version aims to compete more directly with coffees offered at competitors McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.
“Starbucks Blonde Roast is our answer to providing a premium lighter roast coffee to appeal to those that describe Starbucks’ signature roast as too intense,” said Jeff Hansberry, president, Channel development for Starbucks. “This new roast profile will allow us to increase our share of the brewed coffee market down the grocery aisle, where a majority of coffee sales are in the light and medium roast categories.”
From Jan. 12–14, Starbucks units will invite guests to “Find the Roast You Love Most” by tasting sample-size cups of the Blonde roast alongside Dark and Medium roast coffees. Those who participate will receive either a sample of the Blonde coffee to brew at home or a $1 coupon for any Starbucks coffee. Hours for the tasting will vary by location.
With the new Blonde roast also comes a change in packaging for Starbucks products in retail stores, which is designed to make it easier for customers to select their favorite roast style: dark, medium or blonde.
Analyst Mark Kalinowski of Janney Capital Markets predicted in a recent report that the new Blonde roast will be a hit for Starbucks that will bring in new traffic.
He described Starbucks Blonde as a “true light-roasted — but not under-roasted — coffee meant to appeal to regular coffee drinkers who do not currently go to Starbucks all that frequently or at all. Odds are, this product will be a success.”
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