Coffeehouse marketers gave drinkers a free jolt of java Wednesday, marking the start of an all-out war in the $8.3 billion business of beans and ready-to-drink caffeine concoctions.
Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts are brewing for a battle over McDonald’s national rollout of its premium roast coffee, the fast-food giant’s much-anticipated entry into the premium coffee business.
“This is the cola wars of the 2000s,” says John Gilbert, vice president of marketing at Dunkin’ Donuts, the 4,500-store chain based in Randolph, Mass. “It’s been coming for a while.”
To get consumers to wake up and smell their brands, Starbucks poured an estimated half-million 12-ounce cups of coffee at its 7,500 stores nationwide and Dunkin’ Donuts provided free taxi rides in Boston and New York and sample shots of its Hot Turbo coffee, a regular cup with a shot of espresso.
The brands are vying for their fix of the premium coffee business, which is expected to reach about $19 billion in the next five years, according to sales tracker Mintel. Convenience store giant 7-Eleven boosted its coffee program last year with new flavors and resealable cups. And on April 3, beverage giant Coca-Cola (KO) will launch Coca-Cola Blak, a Coke-and-coffee combination.