Some Like it Hot
If you’re a regular
coffee drinker — or have ever pulled an all-nighter studying for
finals, putting together a career-making report or pacing the hallways of a
hospital — chances are you’ve had coffee from a vending
machine. Not something you’d willingly repeat, I’m guessing.
Well, Starbucks thinks it can change that. The company has just announced
two systems that it believes will revolutionize coffee vending.
The North American Coffee Partnership,
Starbucks’ joint venture with PepsiCo, will roll out a new hot
vending platform codenamed the “Hot Boss” late this year. The
machines feature heat-on-demand technology,
which was developed and is owned by Pepsi. Coffee is packaged in 9.5-ounce
insulated steel containers, which are heated to 140 degrees within 47
seconds when a selection is made. The company says the cans are fully
recyclable, and the machines will feature Starbucks flavors such as Caffe
Latte, Caffe Mocha, Caffe Mocha Light, Caramel Latte and Hot Cocoa.
“This is a transformational machine,” says
Tracy Doucette, general manager of the North American Coffee Partnership.
The concept currently is in test market, and the company plans a wider
launch of the machines later this year, with full rollout planned by the
second quarter of 2008.
For locations that have high coffee demand, but not
enough to warrant a full café, Starbucks also is rolling out the
Seattle’s Best self-serve coffeehouse. The machine is technically not
a vending machine, but uses grind-on-brew technology and real milk to serve
up semi-customized coffee drinks.
The hot vending units will be serviced by Pepsi
distribution personnel, just like Pepsi soft drink vending machines, while
the self-serve units will be located in supermarket accounts, where store
personnel can replenish coffee beans and milk when necessary.
The idea of Starbucks getting into vending at first
seems to be counterintuitive. The company built a reputation by convincing
consumers that high-quality coffee comes from baristas who prepare your
order on the spot. But in a press video on the new technology, company
Chairman Howard Schultz observes that vending today is at the point retail
coffee was when Starbucks started out. The company believes it can shape
the vending industry the same way it shaped the rest of the coffee
business. Since Starbucks also operates in a number of non-coffee areas
these days, that influence could carry over into other on-the-go beverages
as well. If that’s the case, the vending industry might be in line
for a big pick-me-up.
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