Starbucks Launches New Iced Coffee Line

And the rich (hope to) get richer.

Aiming to capitalize on growing year-round demand for iced coffee – and extend its domination of the ready to drink coffee category – Starbucks has launched a new line of bottled coffee drinks. Quietly and with very little fanfare, Starbucks has introduced Starbucks Iced Coffee, a four-SKU line of blended coffee and milk products, at select grocery retailers in Boston, Hartford, New York and Philadelphia. The company will continue roll out the new iced coffees nationwide over the next three months, and the products will be available across the country by the end of April, Starbucks said in a statement e-mailed to BevNET.

A source close to Starbucks confirmed that the new line will be distributed through Starbucks and PepsiCo’s North American Coffee Partnership (NACP), which already handles existing RTD Starbucks brands like Frappuccino.

According to data provided by SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm, Starbucks had nearly $1.1 billion in sales of its RTD coffee products, which include Frappuccino, Doubleshot, and Seattle’s Best brands, in the 52-week period ending on Dec. 2, 2012. The RTD coffee category grew by 10.69 percent in dollar sales in the same period, and in its statement, Starbucks noted that “1 out of 5 beverages sold at Starbucks retail stores is a cold coffee beverage, with iced coffee driving the greatest growth.”

Starbucks owns seven of the top ten brands and combined 98 percent share of the RTD coffee category, numbers that will likely rise with the launch of its new coffee line.

Packaged in a slim 11 oz. glass bottle, Starbucks Iced Coffee has a suggested retail price of $1.99 and is currently available in three varieties: Coffee + Milk, Coffee + Milk (Low Calorie), and Vanilla. The company stated that a fourth flavor, Caramel, will be available exclusively along the East Coast from Washington D.C. to Maine. Each variety features a rather clean-looking label with the Starbucks logo, the words “Starbucks Iced Coffee” and two check marked boxes indicating that the product is made with (low-fat) 2 percent milk and is lightly sweetened. The flavors are distinguished by the different colored caps and wrapped labels on the neck of each bottle.

While the company offered no indication that it would be targeting calorie-conscious consumers, the new line will certainly offer an alternative to Starbucks’ existing line of indulgent Frappuccino products. Each variety of Starbucks Iced Coffee contains 0.5 grams of fat and 110-120 calories per bottle, with the exception of the low calorie product which has 50 calories. By comparison, Starbucks bottled Frappuccino drinks contains as much as 200 calories and three grams of fat per 9.5 oz. bottle.