Can Starbucks fight against the cafezinho?
I bet Starbucks marketing directors had several meetings to discuss the Latin American strategy. After all, their expansion plan in the land of good coffee might not be as clearly as successful as their American venture. America was the land of bad coffee. Yes, anyone who remembers the 70’s and 80’s in the US probably knows how terrible coffee was: a brown semi hot tasteless concoction which resembled tea. In contrast, Brazil is the country of the famous “cafezinho”, an espresso-like small cup of very strong coffee, preferably black, 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Starbucks pioneered good coffee grains from exotic tropical countries into America. The coffee was hot, black and fragrant. Lattes became popular. Americans were hooked. Suddenly no one wanted Folgers anymore, no one wanted weak coffee anymore. It became a habit and an addiction. People had no idea how to live without a strong dose of caffeine. Different flavors, milk, soy, almond milk, syrups, coffee from different countries, a cozy place to enjoy a book or work in the laptop.
Brazilians are not used to drinking coffee in paper cups. Brazilians are used to small china cups. You can hardly find “creamer” in any Brazilian supermarket. When Brazilians are not drinking black coffee, they drink “cafe com leite” (which is half coffee, half milk), usually in the morning.
So what are the chances that Starbucks will be a great success all over Brazil? Good. Brazillians love American labels. Starbucks gives status. Starbucks is a cool coffee shop. However, changing the traditional way of drinking coffee will not happen overnight, nor will it happen in large scale. Price is a consideration. Brazilians do not have the income for Starbucks. The cafezinho is dirt cheap. I suspect Starbucks will be restricted to the higher income urban Brazilians, the mall dwellers and foreign tourists. Hopefully, Starbucks won’t suffer the fate of “Outback Steakhouse”, which cannot compete with the wonderful Brazilian “churrascarias”-Brazilian barbecue/steakhouses.
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