Will Starbucks’ push into tea hurt its coffee shops?


October 30, 2013 12:07 am

Will Starbucks’ push into tea hurt its coffee shops?

The Teavana bar’s opening raises questions about how to avoid competing with the original business


Starbucks opened its first Teavana bar in New York last week. CEO Howard Schultz said he was not worried about cannibalising the coffee chain because “most people who are tea drinkers are not crossing over to coffee”. When launching similar products, how do you avoid competing with your original business?THE ADVICE

The marketing expert: Tim Calkins

Companies have to be very careful in introducing new brands. While they might seem like a good idea, they may well cannibalise the existing brand. A bigger problem is that the brand portfolio may become difficult to manage. Companies with many brands in the same space can really struggle. General Motors is a perfect example of what happens when a portfolio becomes unwieldy.

It is best to launch a brand only if its positioning is very different from the existing one, the opportunity is compelling and you have the resources to support all the brands. Starbucks clearly has the resources. The challenge will be keeping Teavana distinct.

Tim Calkins is a marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

The author: Freek Vermeulen

Howard Schultz might be right, and coffee drinkers don’t cross over, but it is also irrelevant. If it is going to cannibalise your business, perhaps that is exactly the reason to do it. Business history shows that companies often refuse to adopt a new product to avoid cannibalisation – until someone else does.

Firestone hung on to bias tyres until the radial tyre all but annihilated them. It was a Swiss engineer who invented quartz technology, which Far Eastern competitors used to outcompete the Swiss mechanical watchmakers. If you can think of a disruptive product that cannibalises your business, someone else can too. Don’t wait for others to take the bite.

Freek Vermeulen is author of Business Exposed and an associate professor at London Business School

The entrepreneur: Tim Martin

History is against Starbucks. The outstanding success in the restaurant world by miles is McDonald’s. While it has been criticised for what it offers, I think it has got over that because it does only one thing and has been able to upgrade – or try to upgrade – every aspect of its business. Compared to anyone else, including Wetherspoon, it has a very simple business.

If you look at the international successes, they have stuck to their knitting. A good example of that is Starbucks. It has an almost ludicrously narrow offer but it has done very well. My estimate is not so much that it will cannibalise existing trade. It’s more about dilution of the effort of the company.

Tim Martin is founder and chairman of the UK pub chain JD Wetherspoon

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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