More than half a year after Starbucks announced its entry into the instant coffee market, the company is launching its first major ad campaign for Via. From today through Monday, the 30-second TV spot invites you to one of its 7,500 locations in the U.S. and Canada to “take the taste challenge” and see if you can tell Via from Starbucks’ fresh-brewed coffee. Additional incentives include a coupons for a free coffee on your next visit and $1 off your purchase of Via. The taste test idea came partly from the results of ads in its first test market, Chicago, where people noticed the product but weren’t checking them out in stores. Besides Starbucks cafes, Via will be available in other retailers such as Office Depot, Barnes & Noble Cafes, and REI, and will arrive in major grocery stores next year.
Back in February, our own in-house panel of java junkies participated in a blind taste test. They found Via wasn’t just undistinguishable from Starbucks original brew: It was better.
So what if coffee lovers everywhere discover that the instant coffee tastes just as good as Starbucks’ fresh brew—or even better? While Starbucks may be targeting the powdery version to travelers and campers, what’s preventing Via from becoming a replacement to fresh-brewed? For less than $1 a cup (a 3-pack retails for $2.95 and a 12-pack for $9.95), penny pinchers may just stay home for their morning cup of joe.