Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Love and Hate: The Starbucks Effect on Coffee Consumption

Heard from a couple of you about my last post, in which I attributed a rise in Chinese coffee consumption to the presence of Starbucks. Thanks for the feedback! But, please, don't assume I love Starbucks. I'm just giving a bit of credit where credit is due.

The Love and the Hate
Let's be clear: Local cafes with accomplished baristas serving locally roasted and Fair Trade coffees rule. Compared to a real pull of espresso from an indie coffee house like Pikes Perk, Starbucks drools an overly bubbled milk foam of drool.

Though I question aspects of the Starbucks business model, I do salute them for pledging to double their Fair Trade coffee purchases to 40 million pounds in 2009. This is a victory for Fair Trade, but even with the increase, Fair Trade will comprise but a sliver of the Starbucks coffe pie at 3.7%.

Starbucks, like Walmart, is a big player. So, whether we like it or not, what they do matters. Today's announcement of deep Starbucks job cuts suggests economic recession is meeting up with trends like DIY espresso at home:
Starbucks plans to close 300 stores, including 200 in the United States, and eliminate about 6,000 store jobs. The company also plans to eliminate about 700 corporate jobs, including about 350 at its corporate headquarters in Seattle.


I think we all love and hate big players. Starbucks is a worldwide coffee giant that does promise a consistent (if bland and overroasted) espresso. They offer a 100% Fair Trade roaster like us a big corporate foil against which we can hone our message and mission. (Love to hate them!) In spending the marketing dollars to raise coffee awareness and appreciation in undeveloped coffee markets, they help the rest of the coffee industry grow. Like, for example, the way that Starbucks is boosting latte quaffing in Tea Capital of the World, China.

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