Grounds Wars: Starbucks Launches Instant Coffee

Starbucks, the coffee behemoth with a global empire of cafes, is gunning for domination in brew's final frontier: your kitchen.

Today, Starbucks launches VIA Ready Brew, an instant, just-add-water coffee that comes in packets.

Starbucks' chief executive officer, Howard Schultz, says it took the coffee chain 20 years to perfect VIA.

"Believe it or not, we have completely replicated the taste of Starbucks coffee and I think most people will not be able to taste the difference," Schultz said.

VIDEO: Starbucks Launches Instant Coffee
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VIA means "road" in Italian and Starbucks chose the name to symbolize a coffee consumers can take with them wherever they go, according to its Web site.

While Starbucks is well known for expensive, gourmet blends, an order of 12 VIA packets is priced around $10.

The price is "expensive for instant coffee, but not for Starbucks coffee," according to Talk About Coffee, a Web site dedicated to all things coffee.

VIA's launch is just the latest strategy Starbucks has employed to keep grinding away through the recession.

In July, the company discarded its name and famous logo on some coffee shops in the Seattle area in an experiment to apparently look and feel more like neighborhood coffee houses. These new locally-inspired cafes reportedly sold the same coffee, but also sold wine.

The chain has also been in a coffee war against Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's.

Taking on Nestle

Last summer, Starbucks felt the full force of the economic recession and was forced to close 600 coffee shops it said were not profitable.

While sales and profits have since rebounded, Schultz is hoping that VIA will take a share of the instant coffee industry away from Nestle, which makes approximately $10 billion annually with its Nescafe.

But VIA's true test of instant success lies in the hands, and taste buds, of the consumers.

While most consumers ABC News spoke to said they could tell the difference between the coffee brewed in a Starbucks cafe and the instant coffee, they all said both gave them the java jolt they were looking for.

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