A provocative perspective on Starbucks Via written by Scott Anthony of Harvard Business Review. There are parts of his argument that I agree with; others that I don’t. In the end I think that Via is an example of great idea – poor execution.
His comment that “in classic disruptive fashion, Via delighted me by substantially out-performing the other options available” is a key insight here. I agree that Via is a very good alternative to other instant coffee products on the market; and, it’s even better than a lot of regular brewed products. However, the issue here isn’t whether this is a good product: it’s a matter of whether it was right for Starbucks to be selling Via in traditional Starbucks stores. Via is not consistent with Starbucks’ brand essence, which is rooted in a premium coffee house “experience”, like the Italian coffee house experience that inspired the creation of Starbucks.
I think that a better alternative for Starbucks would be to license Via to a leading instant-coffee brand, like Nescafe or Nespresso. Or, perhaps Via could be sold only through mass channels, grocery, etc. In this fashion, the company could still realize incremental revenue from a new segment without damaging the Starbucks coffee house experience.