Starbucks instant coffee unveiled

The home of the upscale lattes launches a new brand of instant coffee called Via.

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By Ben Rooney, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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Starbucks' new instant coffee hits stores Tuesday.
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Starbucks unveiled a brand of instant coffee Tuesday that the high-end chain says "will change the way people drink coffee."

The Seattle-based company will begin selling a "ready brew" coffee called Via at all of its U.S. locations in a move designed to tap a growing market for instant coffee.

"With a $21 billion global instant coffee business, and instant coffee representing 40% of overall global coffee sales, we believe Starbucks is uniquely positioned to capture a significant share of this market," said Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, in a statement.

Starbucks has struggled to compete with lower-priced rivals such as Dunkin Donuts and McDonald's (MCD, Fortune 500) as consumers have become more price-conscious amid the weak economy.

However, the company could face resistance from coffee purists who generally see instant coffee as inferior to brewed.

Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) said Via is made with 100% natural roasted arabica coffee and that it took 20 years to develop "a proprietary, U.S. patent-pending microgrind technology" that preserves the taste of fresh coffee.

To help get Via off the ground, Starbucks said it will offer customers the chance to taste it at U.S. stores from Oct. 2 to Oct. 5. Customers will also be given a coupon for a cup of brewed coffee on their next visit and $1 off on a purchase of the instant brew.

Via is sold in packs of three cup-sized servings for $2.95 or $9.95 for a 12 pack. That makes for a cost of $1 per cup, which is Starbucks' cheapest option.

Starbucks has partnered with a number of other companies that could benefit from Via's portability. The instant brew will be available on United Airlines (UAUA, Fortune 500) flights of more than two hours, and at Omni and Marriott (MAR, Fortune 500) hotels, as well as through outdoor gear retailer REI. To top of page

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