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Starbucks may offer mineral water as well

Press Trust of India

Posted: Mar 20, 2007 at 1459 hrs IST

When US coffee chain giant Starbucks forays in India later this year, it might offer more than just a cuppa -- an annual ritual of free coffee, a new mineral water brand and grants for clean water projects could be part of the package.

The world's largest coffee chain, which is planning to open its first Indian store this year and has zeroed in on New Delhi and Mumbai for the launch, has announced a one million dollar grant toward a clean water project to commemorate World Water Day on March 22.

The grant would come from Starbucks' Ethos Water Funds, which has also announced a one million dollar grant for Kenya.

Starbucks had acquired Ethos Water in 2005 and distributes it across its stores in the US.

The company is eyeing to expand its product portfolio in order to gain further market share in the wake of growing competition from fast food joints like McDonalds and the company could consider launching its Ethos Water brand in non-US markets as well, an analyst said.

While a company spokesperson informed from Seattle it was pre-mature to discuss launch of Ethos in India, industry observers said Starbucks could eventually bring this brand to the country after opening its coffee chain.

Starbucks is holding a shareholder meeting tomorrow, where it is expected to announce progress on its growth plans including its expansion into new markets like India.

Industry observers also expect the company to hold its annual "Coffee Break" in India, a promotional programme initiated this year under which it distributes free cups of coffee for a day.

The company distributed large cups of free brewed coffee at its stores across the US and Canada on March 15, while its promotion in China included free coffee and a brownie as well.

Starbucks, which is awaiting approval from Foreign Investment Promotion Board for its India foray, reiterated it was optimistic about opening first stores with a yet-to-be announced joint venture partner by the end of 2007.

The company spokesperson said Starbucks was "excited about the great opportunities that India presents" and it was working closely with the government agencies.

Besides, it was also committed to contribute to the projects working on clean water availability across the world, including India, the spokesperson added.

"The grant will help develop an integrated approach to water and sanitation-related health problems for an estimated 120,000 beneficiaries living in 80 rural villages and 40 urban slums in Madhya Pradesh," the company said.

Starbucks contributes five cents from the sale of each bottle of Ethos water at its US stores to this fund, which support the company's aim to contribute at least 10 million dollars by 2010 towards the cause of world water crisis.

So far, Starbucks has committed a total of more than four million dollars globally to water projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, India, and Indonesia, the spokesperson said.

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