Starbucks matcha marches into the Via lineup with new, Japan-exclusive green tea drink mix

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

The powdered drink series isn’t just for coffee anymore.

While most people immediately think “coffee” when they hear “Starbucks,” the immensely popular chain of cafes also does a brisk business in teas at its Japanese locations. In 2001, the chain introduced the Matcha Cream Frappuccino, which predated the current matcha sweets boom by several years and paved the way for this year’s Chocolate Brownie Matcha, plus the matcha tea latte, which was added to the menu in 2006.

Now, Starbucks is bringing out the first Japan-exclusive item in its Via line of instant beverage mixes: Tea Essence Matcha.

▼ Tea Essence Matcha, hanging out with its coffee-based Via half-siblings

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The matcha Via contains the same domestically produced matcha tea powder as Starbucks uses for its barista-prepared beverages while offering the convenience and portability of Via’s powdered drink bases. Starbucks recommends mixing the contents of a pack with milk for a rich, relaxing cup of matcha latte.

Matcha Via goes on sale June 17 at Starbucks Japan branches and through the company’s online store, priced at 650 yen (US$5.90) for a pack of five.

Starbucks plans to make China its biggest market by 2019

Break time: customers at a Starbucks in central Beijing (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Lee)Break time: customers at a Starbucks in central Beijing

South China Morning Post:

Starbucks announced plans yesterday to make China its biggest market by 2019, with almost 1,400 new shops set to open by 2019.

The world’s largest coffee chain appears to be shrugging off the slowdown that has hit global retailers in the world’s second-largest economy, financial commentators have said.

Starbucks executives want to increase the number of stores in China from 2,000 to 3,400 by 2019. They will be creating 10,000 jobs every year until then, making China its the largest market outside the United States, said a company statement released on Tuesday.

The Seattle-born coffee chain claimed they have not experienced the slump in China plaguing American eateries such as KFC and Pizza Hut.

About 500 Starbucks shops plan to open in China this year alone.

John Culver, Starbucks president of the China and Asia-Pacific region, said the company remains positive about growth opportunities in the country.

We have no intention of slowing down and we remain very optimistic and bullish on the opportunities that Starbucks has in China, both in the short-term as well as in the long-term,” he told Bloomberg.

He went on to say the company was seeing growth in new customers in China, as well as more frequent visits from existing ones.

Starbucks hopes to make China its biggest market.

This tells us that we are becoming part of their daily ritual,” he told Bloomberg.

New Starbucks stores that opened in fiscal year 2015 have outperformed the average sales of those opened in the last seven years.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said this week that China had the potential to become the company’s largest market.

Over time, it’s conceivable that China could become our largest market and I am grateful to our 30,000 dedicated China partners and their supportive families for the significant contributions they are making to Starbucks success,” he said.

We are deeply humbled by the enthusiasm with which Chinese people have embraced Starbucks as part of their daily ritual over the past 17 years.”

The continued investments we are making, coupled with the culture of innovation we have established, are elevating Starbucks partner and customer experience beyond that of any other retailer in China.

The company hopes to attract new staff with the offer of a monthly housing allowance subsidy, covering 50 per cent of an employee’s monthly housing expenditures.

Starbucks Japan to release frozen drink maker for homemade cool refreshments

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RocketNews 24:

Who’s ready for the hot and humid summer? Japan is approaching the second half of spring, and Starbucks has your back. Later this month they’ll be releasing the “Starbucks Frozen Drink Maker” – a reusable mug that doubles as a super simple frozen coffee mixer. It’s easy, it’s cold and it’s delicious. Let’s take a look!

Starbucks Coffee Japan, will be releasing their “Starbucks Frozen Drink Maker” on May 13 in outlets across the country, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice before the blistering summer really hits full force.

Not that you’ll need a lot of practice though, as the cup makes it incredibly easy to make frozen coffee, which is good, because you might be making it before you’ve had your morning joe, obviously.

The cup is an original design by Starbucks’ kitchenware division and is quite a design indeed. It consists of an inner core and an outer shell. Your frozen drink takes a bit of foresight though, as you have to stick the inner core in the freezer overnight (or at least for a significant length of time) before you can use it.

After the core has been successfully chilled, however, all you have to do is pop it into the glass outer sleeve, pour in a packet of Starbucks VIA flavored instant coffee and 180 millilitres (6 US fluid ounces) of milk, then wait two minutes. Once there is a frozen crust, break it with the special spoon and gently stir it up for seven more minutes. The seven minutes of stirring may tire you out a bit, but it will be well worth it for the delightfully refreshing frozen coffee drink you will create.

▼ It will be so easy to make any flavor you want by using the instant coffee sticks.

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The only problem we foresee with this system is that if you want to make more than one drink a day, you’ll either have to wait a long time between drinks, in order to allow the inner core to freeze again, or you’ll just need to have multiple cores chilling in the freezer at any given time. Good thing it comes in the three different “refreshing summer colors” of yellow, white, and light blue. You might as well get one of each. At 3,000 yen (US$25) a pop, however, perhaps it would be best just to stick to one frozen drink a day.

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A daily dose of frozen coffee may not make you immune to the stickiness of summer, but it will at least give you an occasional refreshing respite and now you don’t even have to leave the comfortable air-conditioning of your home to get it. Thank you, Starbucks; summer suddenly seems a little less daunting.

Starbucks to release Almond Milk Latte and Frappuccino in Japan for a limited time

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RocketNews 24: 

For years, fans of Starbucks have been petitioning the coffee chain for a non-dairy alternative to soy. While the company recently responded by adding coconut milk options to their U.S. menus, lovers of almond milk were left out in the cold due to concerns over nut allergens.

Now, for a limited time, Starbucks Japan will be taking the bold step out into nut allergen territory with the release of the Almond Milk Frappuccino with Honey Crunch and the Almond Milk Latte with Honey Crunch. If you’re in Japan from 18 March to 14 April, you’ll be one of the lucky few to introduce your tastebuds to a sweet treat others can only dream of!

The Frappuccino features a good blend of honey and almond milk, topped with honey-flavored whipped cream and sweet honey syrup. Providing the crunch are tiny nuggets of candy-coated almonds. While the tall size will retail for 520 yen (US$4.30), short sizes can also be provided on request. Although for such a rare menu item, we’ll be eyeing up the Venti at 600 yen ($4.96).

The latte promises to showcase the deliciously nutty flavor of the milk by pairing it with a mellow espresso and a light hit of honey. If you love the aroma of almond milk, this will be the drink for you. Prices start at 420 yen ($3.47) for the short size.

These limited-edition drinks will be available from most outlets around Japan and may sell out during daily business hours, depending on demand. Be sure to get in early so you don’t miss out!

Seoul’s food prices among highest in the world

Analysts attribute high consumer prices on food to a complex South Korean distribution system. (Yonhap)

Korea Times: 

The prices of food and beverages like beef and coffee in Seoul are among the highest in the world despite the number of free trade agreements (FTAs) South Korea has signed with other countries, a consumer report showed Monday.

In a survey of 13 major cities throughout the world, Seoul was found to have one of the highest prices for 35 food and drink items, according to the report by local civic group Consumer Korea.

The prices of 42 different commodities and foodstuffs were studied in June and October of last year. The cities surveyed in the report include New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, London, Milan, Toronto, Sydney, Madrid, Amsterdam and Taipei.

The local Starbucks coffee chains in Seoul, for example, sell the most expensive tall-sized cup of Americano in the world at 4,100 won (US$3.78), exceeding the price of same coffee in Paris, Beijing, Tokyo and Amsterdam, the report showed. Seoul’s price is 65.5 percent higher than the cheapest cup of the Americano sold in New York.

Chilean wine was also more expensive in Seoul. The premium red wine from Chile’s Montes Alpha series cost 43,000 won in the South Korean capital, nearly 10 percent more than in Taipei, which trailed at 39,410 won, according to the report.

Whether they are from home or overseas, basic commodities such as meats were also among the high-priced items, as local stores sold beef sirloins from home-bred cows at 106,000 won, surpassing the 90,931 won in Tokyo and the 58,526 won in Beijing. Imported beef sirloins in Seoul was the third most expensive compared with those in other cities.

Nine different types of imported fruits, including bananas, oranges and cherries, also commanded a larger price in Seoul than in most cities elsewhere, the report showed.

Although consumers here expect to have to pay less for imported foods and beverages as a result of the 15 bilateral free trade agreements South Korea has forged with its trade partners, the report said prices have yet to see the downward effect due to the complex distribution system here that often hikes consumer prices.

The price of cherries shipped in from the United States, for instance, has gone down 19 percent since the South Korea-U.S. FTA went into effect in 2012, but the price for consumers has jumped 42.4 percent.

The country needs to improve its distribution structure so that the actual consumers can benefit from the price cuts made possible from the FTA and lower trade barriers,” an official from Consumer Korea said.

Coffee beats kimchi as Koreans’ favorite

Korea Times (by Rachel Lee):

Coffee has become so popular in Korea that many people now prefer a cup rather than having rice or kimchi. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, coffee is the most frequently consumed food item, at 12.2 times a week.

Kimchi, traditional fermented vegetables, was second (11.9 times), followed by sugar (9.7) and multigrain rice (9.7).

Thanks to coffee’s rising popularity, 65,000 tons of coffee was produced in the country in 2013, an increase of about 63 percent from 2009. Of the total production, instant coffee accounted for about 39.2 percent in 2013, a 54 percent increase over the past five years.

The instant coffee market has started to shrink, with a variety of takeaway flavors and instant brew coffee becoming increasingly popular,” the ministry spokesperson said.

The penchant for coffee is particularly apparent in Seoul, where many buildings have coffee shops on the first floor.

Coffee chains have grown sharply since Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee entered Korea in 1999, triggering a coffee chain boom in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

Other multinational brands such as The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf from California and Pascucci from Italy, jumped on the bandwagon as did local conglomerates such as Lotte Group and CJ Group.

In 2012, Korea ranked 30th in the world in terms of coffee consumption, according to the National Coffee Association of the United States.