Starbucks Corporation (SBUX), long the king of in-store coffee, is making a move to become the king of in-home coffee as well. The Seattle-based company announced recently it would begin selling a single-serve brewer online, with in-store sales coming soon after. Known as the "Verismo," the brewer will cost $199 and is expected to present a challenge for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), which specializes in similar products. The move has the potential to be a significant moneymaker for Starbucks, and I expect the brewers to sell quite well. The company will also be rolling out later this month support for Apple's (AAPL) new Passbook system, which will allow users to pay for Starbucks with their iPhones. While the company has been doing an e-payment method for some time, this new update on the heels of the latest version of iOS as well as the new iPhone 5 should generate even more buzz for Starbucks. Because of these new developments, as well as the continued belief of investors in CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks' stock could be set to take off.
Single-serve brewers have become quite popular, and Starbucks could be set to reap significant profits. While the market is currently dominated by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and its Keurig brand machines, that isn't likely to last long. And so far, investors seem to be betting against Green Mountain, as the stock has tumbled since Starbucks made its announcement. Starbucks had previously signed a deal with Green Mountain to produce coffee pods for Keurig machines, so this could be seen as a bit of a kick in the gut to Green Mountain. The new Verismo, however, is different from the Keurig machines, so some who only want brewed coffee may stick with Green Mountain. The Verismo will feature the ability to brew lattes and espresso as well, so while some may only want a coffee option, it does seem that Starbucks is set to take a significant market share away from Green Mountain. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told CNBC he was quite happy with the new machines.
"This product will be accretive for the company over the long term, and we can become the leader of this market," Schultz said. "We're going to have a great holiday season, and Verismo is going to be the star. … We'll continue to support our partnership with Green Mountain because there are customers who want a brewed coffee machine only…"
While that's nice of Schultz to say, it's little consolation for Green Mountain, and I would expect the downturn in its stock price to continue going forward, especially through this holiday season. As for Schultz, the CEO himself is one of the reasons I'm bullish about the future prospects of Starbucks going forward. CNBC's Jim Cramer smartly compared Schultz to the late Steve Jobs, given that Schultz made investors a fortune when he started the company and again when he came back after a hiatus. Cramer believes Schultz is a real visionary and should not be taken lightly.
"I am going with Schultz - not against him - because it has been a horrendous bet to against Schultz in either the first or the second iteration, and I think it will be a horrendous bet once again," Cramer said. "Whether it be the Verismo, whether it be the recent decline in the cost of coffee, or the rebound in traffic at home and abroad, Schultz has primed Starbucks for a third round of growth, and you don't want to be caught on the outside looking in."
Finally, Starbucks will soon be integrating its digital payment card into Apple's iOS software, which will give the company great visibility among the enormous number of iPhone users. The technology itself isn't new, but Starbucks is smart to hitch a ride onto the wave of the latest iPhone, and it will quickly be one the most visible companies to take advantage of the new Passbook service. Sales of the latest iPhone are expected to shatter records, so integrating its digital payment service into the latest software is a very smart move indeed.
Overall, things are looking great for Starbucks. The Verismo machine should be a hit, and investors seem quite confident with Howard Schultz at the helm. The company's stock price is up 11% this year, and analysts have high hopes for the potential of Verismo and how it'll stack up against the competition moving forward. Buy targets are being attributed, with price targets at $60 and above, which accounts for another 10% of growth in price for the rest of the year. With revenue numbers up (12.7% increase on a year-to-year basis), and on the strength of its new moves, Starbucks looks like a great buy right now.
Disclaimer: This article was prepared for Freedonia Freelance by one of our analysts.