Review: Starbucks Finally Joins the RTD Cold-Brew Space
Covers Products: Cold Brew Coffee
At approximately $2 billion in U.S. retail sales for its ready-to-drink coffee beverages, Starbucks is the undisputed leader in the RTD coffee space. While they’ve been offering cold-brew coffee at their retail outlets for some months now, the company has been on the sidelines when it comes to the rapidly emerging packaged cold-brew coffee category.
Now, they are finally getting into the game and this product, which is simply titled Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee, is their first entry. It’s a two-ingredient blend of coffee and water that is shelf stable, which is something that you won’t find in all of the brands that it competes with. The flavor, which they describe on the front of the bottle as “super-smooth” is exactly what you’d expect from cold-brew: bold, smooth, and no acid to the finish.
Compared with what’s already on the market, this product isn’t exactly an innovative offering. But its execution is clean and the product is enjoyable, which allows Starbucks to be in the game with something that can certainly hold its own.
And they are pairing that with two massive advantages that other brands don’t have: the Starbucks name and the distribution and retail muscle of Starbucks and Pepsi (together they are the “North American Coffee Partnership”). This will most certainly make this product present in thousands of retail outlets in a short time.
The product will, if nothing else, help continue to foster awareness and acceptance of cold-brew coffee, in much the same way their retail outlets paved the way for other premium coffee options, from independents to competing chains.Getting back to the actual product at hand, there’s still a question left to be answered: would we buy this over other cold-brew products that are currently out there? While we definitely wouldn’t go out of our way to purchase it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. If it weren’t a Starbucks product, we’d say that it feels like a commodity offering. Nevertheless, this product is good enough that it raises the bar that emerging cold-brew companies need to exceed to carve out their niche. We’re sure that Starbucks will take this product and use it as a foot in the door into the cold-brew category and then some.