Starbucks Wages Its Middle-Class Offensive

Can it steal away coffee drinkers from McDonald's?

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The country's most ubiquitous coffee shop is about to become even more so. Starbucks is expanding its business to more than 30,000 distribution points, up from 3,000, by the end of the fiscal year. The strategy hinges on selling a milder brand of coffee at everyday stores like Burger King, Subway and movie theaters. The blander coffee is called Seattle's Best and it's already being re-branded to suit more middle-class palettes

  • Smart Decision: Won't Erode the Brand, applauds Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street: "The move is strategically sound. It allows Starbucks to expand its base of sales without sullying the company’s core high-end name. Starbucks coffee can continue to be sold at high prices at its own stores and select retail outlets. Seattle’s Best creates a new brand that stands on its own. Its success or failure, particularly a failure, will not change the public’s perception of Starbucks flagship products."
  • It's a Concerted Effort to Appeal to Middle Class, observes Dawn Kawamoto at Daily Finance: "Starbucks, despite its saturation of stores, carries a flavor with a powerful punch that does not necessarily translate into a taste for the masses -- hence, its acquisition of local rival Seattle's Best, in a $72 million stock and cash deal... Since its acquisition, Seattle's Best had maintained its own artful brand, but Starbucks is now retooling it with a far more simplified logo that carries a look that will likely appeal to the Target shopper, aka the everyday guy and gal."
  • I Won't Be Caught Dead With Starbucks! suggests Gawker's Hamilton Nolan. With an air of condescension, the Manhattan blogger bemoans the new "hobofied" Starbucks: "This brand erosion make Starbucks' middlebrow future almost too horrifying to contemplate... If every uncouth truck-driver has his onion ring-thickened meaty paws wrapped around a Starbucks-affiliated product... Starbucks truly has taken its niche evil to an entirely new and more alarming level."
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