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Coffee drinkers are pretty passionate about their favorite brews. As freelance NYC writer Carol Vinzant recently wrote in an article: "After Starbucks proved that Americans were willing to spend more for a better–or at least fancier–cup of coffee, everyone wanted in on what is now an $8.4 billion retail coffee market. Dunkin' Donuts showed that there was room for a high-quality cup of Joe from a place that is not so high falutin'. The rest of the fast food industry quickly piled on...."

My first Daily Fix post on this subject, back on November 14th detailed how Dunkin' Donuts' huge national expansion and its head-to-head competition with Starbucks, elicited some very strong responses. It was great to get all the feedback, as well as decidedly strong opinions on the topic.
Anyway, Ms. Vinzant makes a savvy point in her article: "As with all consumer choices, we're influenced not only by the product itself, but by intangibles–what marketers call brand experience–ranging from what advertising makes us think and feel about buying the product, to in-store ambiance (or lack of it), to whether the staff is friendly or surly and finally, what treats you can eat there with your coffee."
Let's not forget these premium quality players in the coffee market: Peet's, Caribou Coffee and New Orleans-based Café du Monde. All of these chains continue to expand and continue to be championed by avid fans, just as Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts are.
What I find most interesting about the article, though, is how multiple chains have invested in offering their customers a better cup of java. From McDonald's, and its recent deal inked with Green Mountain Roasters, to Burger King's premium coffees, to convenience store chains, every fast food retailer, it seems, has jumped on the bandwagon to offer patrons a moderately priced, decent cup of coffee. Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of the proverbial multi-billion dollar pie.
Panera, too, is making a run at this. Touting quality food to go or eat on site, and an environment many prefer to Starbucks for its inviting ambiance, Panera is rapidly growing. And its coffees are pretty good. Signs are abundant that there is:
plenty of room for growth
plenty of opportunity to take some business away from Starbucks
Not everybody is a Starbucks fan. As Ms. Vizant again points out in her article: "Starbucks has many detractors. Some purists claim it over-roasts, some message board users find it too dark, still others object to its world domination."
So, stay tuned all. The coffee wars are expected to rage even hotter as vendors and their marketers go after the premium coffee market that Starbucks built.

Continue reading "Coffee Wars Heating Up" ... Read the full article

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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (, a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.