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Are Starbucks "Via" Instant Coffee Sales Artificially Inflated Via Artificial "Via" Instant Coffee Sales?

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Starbucks stunned investors when the coffee giant reported global sales of its Via instant coffee had reached $100 million in 10 months.

But concerns have been raised that pressure has been put on employees to give away complimentary beverages to customers in exchange for buying Via, falsely elevating Via's numbers.

Why is Starbucks so concerned about painting such a rosy picture of Via?

Because, when it was launched in September 2009, Wall Street doubted the wisdom of the product's introduction. So, to silence those critics, what works better than some good, old-fashioned manipulation of the data?

Reuters asked Starbucks spokeswoman Sanja Gould if the company was aware of the situation. In a moment of hard-to-believe quasi-honesty from an in-house corporate shill, Gould said, "There have been limited instances where some beverage sales have been rung up as Via sales."

Those limited instances include the story of 
"Tyler Swain, a barista in Omaha, Nebraska, said his store is under intense pressure from its district manager to deliver Via sales. Swain said he has given out complimentary drinks to persuade customers to buy Via and that he has been coached to teach others to do the same."


"Two business school students, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that a Manhattan barista this week gave them two free drinks in exchange for buying a package of Via."

Is it possible that Via has really, truthfully sold $100 million worth of instant coffee, which I personally haven't seen anyone drink since my great-grandfather stirred a teaspoonful of Savarin into a mug of lukewarm water in 1974?

Let's consider Frappuccino, which is generally considered to be Starbucks' most successful product launch ever.

According to Starbucks' own figures, it took three years for Frappuccino to reach $100 million in sales (adjusted for inflation).

Did Via really do it in 10 months?

Sure. In much the same way Barry Bonds broke the home run record without using steroids.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.