Continuing its foray into new lines of business, Starbucks is introducing a single-cup coffee machine that will allow consumers to make their own lattes at home with real milk.
Called the Verismo, it uses a special “milk pod” that Starbucks also developed.
“Our research and development team cracked the code on being able to create a latte using real milk with a proprietary piece of technology,” said Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks. “There’s no other single-cup machine that makes a latte with fresh milk just like we make it in our stores.”
The new machines, available as two models and in an array of colors, one selling for $199 and one for $399, will go on sale immediately at verismo.com, in Starbucks stores later this month and at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and Macy’s in October.
But the debut of Verismo, to be announced Thursday, collided with consumer outcry over planned changes to a rewards program that Starbucks announced this week.
Customers posted cranky comments on the company’s blog, Facebook page and other social media about its decision to end free syrups and soy additions, even though Starbucks made an effort to improve some terms of the program, like giving a free drink after 12 transactions instead of after 15.
“A lot of vegans and lactose intolerant people are upset by this,” said Chris Hansen, founder of the independent record label No Sleep Records, who is vegan. “It feels like we’re being penalized because of our beliefs or because of the way our bodies work.”
Mr. Hansen started a petition on Tuesday to try to persuade Starbucks to restore free soy and syrup benefits of its rewards program on Change.org. and has so far accumulated more than 1,000 supporters.
A previous petition on Change.org earlier this year persuaded Starbucks to replace a food coloring it used in strawberry drinks that contained crushed insects with one that was vegetable-based.
Linda Mills, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, said it was aware of the latest controversy.
In announcing the Verismo, Starbucks is trying to capitalize on the popularity of single-cup coffee machines that use K-Cups, sealed plastic cups that contain ground coffee in a little filter. More than $8 billion of machines and cups were sold worldwide last year, and more than one in every three coffee machines sold is a single-cup machine, said Jeff Hansberry, president for channel development and emerging brands at Starbucks.
In the United States market, where the machines are newer, sales grew by 143 percent last year. “Customers want convenience and great quality in their homes,” Mr. Hansberry said.
Starbucks has had a partnership with Green Mountain Coffee, which made Starbucks-branded K-Cups for the chain. But Starbucks will make its own coffee pods for Verismo, which will now compete with Green Mountain’s Keurig single-cup machines.