Via Boosts Starbucks Sales

Starbucks defied skeptics this week when it announced that its Via Ready Brew has reached $100 million in global sales, ten months after launch.

The coffee chain said Via has captured about 30 percent of the $330 million premium single serve/pod category. As a comparison, it took Starbucks’ Frappuccino blended beverage about three years to reach $100 million in sales, per the company.

“We believe the growth for this product is significant and have chosen to introduce Starbucks Via Ready Brew in markets we believe have the greatest potential,” said a Starbucks rep. These new retail markets include the U.K., Canada and Japan (in September).

The Seattle-based chain spent 20 years developing Via, and has supported the product with the single-largest marketing push in the company’s history. Via debuted in September 2009, accompanied by measured media spending of $2 million that year, according to the Nielsen Co. From January through May of this year, Starbucks spent $7 million on measured media.

Starbucks initially introduced Via in its stores and in select U.S. outlets. Now, Via is available in about 37,000 locations, including 25,000 food, drug and mass merchandise stores. Earlier this year, Starbucks launched Via into U.S. grocery outlets, and within a few weeks, Starbucks will introduce new products in the American market. By the end of fiscal year 2011, the chain expects to add 3,000 non-Starbucks stores carrying Via.

Starbucks’ retail expansion has been supported by in-store marketing, sampling and social media efforts on Starbucks baristas, for example, have appeared in Safeway and Target stores to give out Via samples to shoppers. (The product carries a suggested retail price of $2.95 for 3 servings, and $7.49 for eight servings.)

In addition to expanding the distribution of Via, Starbucks is planning a new U.S. ad campaign for the product this fall from BBDO. The company didn’t disclose details on the campaign.