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Starbucks' New Coffee: Bold or Bland?

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Is the coffee chain's latest a bust?

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When CEO Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks (SBUX), his mission was clear: get the retail coffee giant back on its feet. Along with fighting consumer slowdown across the board, Starbucks had been facing stiff competition from McDonald's (MCD) and Dunkin' Donuts, two companies that offered notoriously lighter, smoother, and more digestible coffee.

Not long after Schultz's return, Starbucks rolled out its newest and most contentious coffee to date: Pike Place Roast. The milder coffee was introduced as a response to complaints that Starbucks' coffee was too strong. Immediately, Pike Place became the chain's standard brew. If you wanted the old, strong stuff, you'd have to ask for it specifically.

Starbucks reported that since the introduction of Pike Place, sales of drip coffee has increased by between 5% and 15%, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But for many loyal customers, Pike Place presents a paradox: how could a brand that built its reputation on boldness rely on such a pedestrian brew to turn things around?

Whether or not Pike Place is the smoothest path to success or just the watering down of a classic remains to be seen. Whatever the case me be, Schultz's strategy is nothing if not bold.

For more on Starbucks, check out Hoofy and Boo's always astute report.

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