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The Wall Street Journal reports that while Starbucks has gotten some plaudits for its introduction of the milder Pike Place Roast, described as a “milder brew” that makes the company more accessible to mass market coffee drinkers, there has been some backlash.

“The new strategy, which played down the company's more-established robust roasts, has touched off a debate about what customers think Starbucks should stand for: bold coffee for connoisseurs or a tamer brew for the masses?” The Journal notes that “much of that debate is taking place on the company's customer-feedback Web site, which the chain launched in March. The site is littered with thumbs-down verdicts on the new roast. Some small competitors have posted messages there trying to woo away disenchanted Starbucks drinkers.”

KC's View:
It is a fascinating debate, and in some ways encapsulates the kind of debate that so many retailers have about the soul of their companies and the balance between art and commerce.

What is interesting about the Starbucks case is that a lot of customers seem to be complaining about the fact that some of the older, bolder coffees sold by the company have been in short supply, which concerns them. In my case, I’m a dedicated drinker of Verona, a bold coffee that I buy ground and make at home…if suddenly I were not able to get it, I’d certainly be put off and it would make me question my loyalty to Starbucks.

It’s the old story about “dancing with the one who brung you.”