Research from Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, shows that U.S. consumers lead the world in coffee intake, with 16.3% of all coffee being consumed in the United States.

Research from Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, shows that U.S. consumers lead the world in coffee intake, with 16.3% of all coffee being consumed in the United States. And even with coffee powerhouse Starbucks Corp., Seattle, closing stores around the country, it is doubtful that Americans will be short of supply.

In fact, to make sure Americans can have a cup of Starbucks anytime and anywhere, this country’s leading java brewer recently announced an innovation that many critics say will do the brand more harm than good. This is because the product defies Starbucks’ foundation of serving high-quality, freshly brewed coffee, often times made to order by a trained barista.  

That’s right, Starbucks’ most recent innovation is an instant coffee that claims to replicate the body and flavor of Starbucks coffee in a soluble form. Starbucks Chairman, President and CEO Howard Schultz says that the company has worked for nearly 20 years to develop an instant coffee that offers customers the quality and taste they expect from fresh-brewed Starbucks coffee, and that’s what they get from new Starbucks VIA Ready Brew.

Unlike most traditional instant coffees that instruct consumers to spoon into a cup the desired amount of granules and add hot (or cold) water, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew comes in pre-portioned single-serve packets to ensure just the right amount is used to guarantee a Starbucks experience. The packets are not cost-competitive with other instant coffees sold in canisters or jars. The suggested retail price will be $2.95 for three packets and $9.95 for 12, which equates to less than a buck a cup-less than the cost of a cup from a Starbucks barista but much more than any other coffee drink that requires consumer involvement.

“Instant, soluble coffee has long been the unspeakable wasteland of the coffee business,” says John Quelch, professor, Harvard Business School, Boston, and co-author of the best-selling March 2006 Harvard Business School case study on Starbucks. “Conventional wisdom would be that no premium brand should go near it. But Howard Schultz’s vision from day one has been to bring quality coffee to the mass market. Starbucks VIA Ready Brew continues that effort.”

Schultz knows Americans love coffee. Long ago he also recognized that milk and dairy make the perfect marriage. Just think Frappuccino. This is something many dairy processors are slow to capitalize on, but they have no excuse. Coffee ingredients are plentiful.

There are numerous coffee ingredients from which to choose. In general, the least expensive coffee flavoring ingredient is freeze-dried or powdered coffee. It can be stored at ambient temperature; thus, it has a lengthy shelflife. Unfortunately, such products often deliver an acidic or bitter aftertaste, and a formulator needs to mask this, especially in cold beverages, with other flavors, thickeners or sweeteners. Concentrates are more commonly used in beverages and frozen products because they deliver a higher-quality coffee flavor. They are available in a wide range of qualities, as well as a variety of flavors and strengths. They are made by brewing coffee, followed by reducing the water in the resulting brew. Flavor houses also offer coffee flavorants, some based on real coffee. Such coffee flavors can be used alone or to further enhance the aforementioned coffee ingredients.

The Leading Caffeinated Cities

If you want to test market a coffee-dairy creation, it might be worthwhile to evaluate the concept in a city that loves caffeinated beverages.

The second annual HealthSaver Caffeinated Cities Survey, commissioned by HealthSaver, Norwalk, Conn., a national emerging health care discount service, found that the most caffeinated city in the country is Tampa, followed by Seattle, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

The least caffeinated cities are Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif., followed closely by Atlanta, San Diego, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas. The survey considered numerous caffeine sources, including coffee, tea, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, pain relievers and caffeine pills. Considering caffeinated coffee consumption alone, it was no surprise that Seattle ranked number-one nationwide for the second consecutive year.

Released last month, the HealthSaver 2008 Caffeinated Cities Survey was conducted to determine the caffeine consumption habits and attitudes of consumers across the United States. “With the advent of rich, high-end coffees, soaring popularity of energy drinks and national fascination with green tea, our HealthSaver Caffeinated Cities Survey has brewed up some very interesting trends, findings and results,” says Brad Eggleston, vice president of HealthSaver.

The health benefits of caffeine are plentiful and well-documented in numerous studies in recent years. Coffee and tea, in particular, have emerged as good health food sources that can lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, colon cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, as well as lift your mood, treat headaches and even lower risk of cavities. Caffeine also enhances athleticism, endurance and performance, according to health care experts.

“Even though at one time coffee was considered harmful to your health, at this point there is no compelling research to indicate that, in fact, is true,” says Peter Martin, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology and the director of the Institute of Coffee Studies, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Nashville. “Newer studies actually prove coffee in moderation is good for one’s health.”

Here’s the buzz on the most and least wired cities, as well as other key survey findings:

Most Caffeinated Cities

2008                                 2007

1.  Tampa                             1.  Chicago
2.  Seattle                           2.  Tampa
3.  Chicago                           3.  Miami
4.  New York                          4.  Phoenix
5.  Los Angeles                       5.  Atlanta

Least Caffeinated Cities

1.  Riverside/San Bernardino      1.  San Francisco
2.  Atlanta                                        2.  Philadelphia
3.  San Diego                                 3.  New York
4.  Minneapolis/St. Paul               4.  Detroit
5.  Dallas                                        5.  Baltimore

Most Coffee Consumption
Regular coffee & specialty coffee drinks

2008                                 2007
1.  Seattle                           1.  Seattle
2.  Miami                             2.  Boston
3.  San Francisco              3.  Houston
4.  Los Angeles                  4.  Chicago
5.  Tampa                             5.  Miami

Least Coffee Consumption
Regular coffee & specialty coffee drinks

2008                                               2007
1.  St. Louis                                   1.  Dallas
2.  Riverside/San Bernardino    2.  New York
3.  Houston                                    3.  St. Louis
4.  Phoenix                                     4.  Atlanta
5.  Detroit                                       5.  Philadelphia

Most Tea Consumption
Green tea, iced tea, black tea

2008                               2007
1.  New York                        1.  Miami
2.  Tampa                           2.  Tampa
 3.  Baltimore                       3.  Washington, D.C.
 4.  Boston                          4.  Philadelphia
 5.  Atlanta                         5.  Atlanta

Least Tea Consumption
Green tea, iced tea, black tea

2008                                       2007
1.  Minneapolis/St. Paul      1.  Minneapolis/St. Paul
2.  Miami                                2.  Detroit
3.  San Francisco                 3.  San Francisco
4.  Detroit                               4.  Seattle
5.  Seattle                              5.  Boston

Most Chocolate Consumption
Candy, ice cream, cake, cookies

2008                                2007
1.  Seattle                       1.  Chicago
2.  Phoenix                     2.  Atlanta
3.  Chicago                    3.  Minneapolis/St. Paul
4.  Detroit                       4.  Phoenix
5.  Boston                      5.  St. Louis

Least Chocolate Consumption
Candy, ice cream, cake, cookies

2008                                2007
1.  Atlanta                         1.  Los Angeles
2.  Dallas                          2.  Riverside/San Bernardino
3.  Riverside/San Bernardino        3.  Houston
4.  San Diego                       4.  Miami
5.  Philadelphia                    5.  Dallas

Most Energy Drink Consumption
Red Bull, Monster etc.

2008                                                2007
1.  Atlanta                                      1.  Riverside/San Bernardino
2.  Riverside/San Bernardino    2.  Los Angeles
3.  Tampa                                      3.  Chicago
4.  Seattle                                      4.  Miami
5.  San Diego                               5.  New York

Least Energy Drink Consumption
Red Bull, Monster etc.

2008                                2007
1.  Dallas (tie)                    1.  Philadelphia
1.  Baltimore (tie)                 2.  San Francisco/Oakland
3.  Washington, D.C.                3.  Houston
4.  Detroit                         4.  Dallas/Ft. Worth
5.  Philadelphia & St. Louis (tie)  5.  Boston

Cities Most Likely To Say Caffeine Is Good For You

2008                                       2007
1.  New York                        1.  Seattle
2.  Miami                               2.  Chicago
3.  Baltimore                         3.  Miami
4.  Minneapolis/St. Paul     4.  San Diego
5.  Tampa                              5.  Boston

Cities Most Likely To Say Caffeine Is Bad For You

2008                                2007
1.  Detroit                         1.  Los Angeles
2.  Phoenix                         2.  Riverside/San Bernardino
3.  Riverside/San Bernardino        3.  San Francisco
4.  St. Louis                       4.  New York
5.  Houston                         5.  Atlanta

Cities Most Addicted To Caffeine

2008                                2007
1.  Seattle                         1.  Boston
2.  Philadelphia                    2.  Minneapolis/St. Paul
3.  Phoenix                         3.  San Diego
4.  St. Louis                       4.  Chicago
5.  Los Angeles & Boston (tie)      5.  Atlanta

Cities Least Addicted To Caffeine

2008                                             2007
1.  Chicago                                  1.  New York
2.  Tampa                                     2.  Philadelphia
3.  San Francisco                        3.  Miami
4.  Houston                                   4.  Houston
5.  Riverside/San Bernadino     5.  Tampa