* Blonde will be Starbucks lightest roast to date
* Blonde roast will go on sale in January
* Starbucks aims to grab more market share with addition
* Starbucks shares up 2 percent
By Lisa Baertlein
LOS ANGELES, Oct 18 Starbucks Corp is
going "Blonde," expanding its coffee lineup with its lightest
roast to date in a move aimed at wooing more customers and
capturing a bigger share of the U.S. coffee market.
The world's biggest coffee company is known for its dark
roasts, which have prompted some critics to say the chain's
coffee tastes burned.
The new, lighter roast unveiled on Tuesday is milder in
body and acidity than Starbucks' traditional coffees.
Executives said customers had been asking for a lighter roast
and they expect Blonde to appeal to a broad audience.
Mass-market competitors McDonald's Corp and Dunkin'
Donuts offer milder brewed coffees and in recent years
have added lattes, mochas and other sorts of "fancy" espresso
drinks popularized by Starbucks.
"This is a significant opportunity for Starbucks to gain a
greater share of the brewed coffee market -- both in our stores
and down the coffee aisle," Cliff Burrows, president of
Starbucks Americas, said in a statement.
The U.S. packaged coffee category is valued at $5.6
According to Starbucks research, more than 40 percent of
U.S. coffee drinkers -- or about 54 million consumers -- prefer
a lighter roast coffee, Jeff Hansberry, president of channel
development for Starbucks, told Reuters.
Additionally, more than 70 percent of all packaged coffee
sales in the grocery aisle are either light or medium roasted
coffee, Hansberry said.
The company will begin selling its new Blonde blends in
Starbucks cafes and supermarkets in the United States on Jan.
10. They will be available in Canada in February.
Starbucks cafes also will brew a Blonde blend alongside its
other daily coffees. Breakfast Blend is currently the lightest
coffee available at Starbucks, while French Roast is at the
darkest end of the roast spectrum.
Starbucks' last major addition to its brewed coffee lineup
came in 2008, when it introduced Pike Place as an "everyday"
brew. Chief Executive Howard Schultz later that year said Pike
Place gave the company an incremental bump in sales.
The company debuted Via instant coffee in 2009 and expects
it to one day grow into a billion-dollar business.
Starbucks restarted profit growth in 2010 after a two-year
restructuring that involved slashing costs and shuttering
almost 1,000 cafes globally. Since then, investors have enjoyed
quarterly profits that often topped analysts' views.
Starbucks shares -- up roughly 80 percent since the
beginning of 2010 -- gained 2 percent to $41.99 on Tuesday.