Starbucks to Sell New Coffee Roast

Blonde roast aims to widen chain's appeal, compete with other coffee sellers

Starbucks Coffee Co. said Tuesday it will introduce its first light-roast coffee products early next year.

The new “Blonde” roast, to debut at U.S. Starbucks locations on Jan. 10, aims to attract the estimated 40 percent of American coffee drinkers who say they prefer a lighter roast flavor, according to the company’s research.

“We feel like that’s been an underserved customer group,” said Rossann Williams, Starbucks senior vice president for the sunbelt region, who unveiled the new product in Los Angeles, at one of five press conferences held at Starbucks locations across the country Tuesday.

Additionally, an estimated 70 percent of consumers who buy packaged coffee in grocery stores purchase a light to medium roast, Williams said.

For more than 40 years, Starbucks has positioned its dark-roast, bolder flavored coffees as a premium alternative to lighter brews.

The introduction of Starbucks Blonde will level the chain’s playing field with such competitors as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, which offer coffees and specialty drinks that favor lighter roasts.

“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, Starbucks president of the Americas, said in a statement.

Starbucks Blonde will be brewed at the chain’s locations. It will also be sold as a whole bean and ground coffee offering in grocery stores, as well as a version of VIA Ready Brew instant coffee and a single-serve K-Cup.

The company will unveil new packaging for all its coffees in grocery stores in January. The designs will categorize flavors as blonde, medium, and dark, based on roast.

“Not only does Starbucks Blonde Roast provide Starbucks with an opportunity to reach a new category of coffee drinkers within the $5.6 billion U.S. packaged coffee category, but by organizing our coffees by Blonde, Medium, and Dark, it makes it easier for our customers to find the taste that appeals to them,” Jeff Hansberry, president of channel development for Starbucks, said in a statement.