The bitter battle between Tassimo and Keurig

Why the fight over who makes the better single-serve coffee machine is ramping up

One cup of frustration

Robert Sorbo/Reuters

In the world of single-serve coffee makers, debate over which brewer is better, the Keurig or Tassimo, is as heated as an extra-extra-hot skinny latte. Each machine takes its own type of coffee-grind packet—a “K-cup” or a “T-disc,” respectively—and each machine is aligned with different coffee bean companies. So when Starbucks announced a few weeks ago that it will sell one-cup pods of its grinds exclusively fit for Keurig machines, caffeine addicts were further inflamed: Tassimo used to have an exclusive deal with Starbucks. All that changed when, in March,

Starbucks split from Kraft Foods, which launched the Tassimo in Canada in 2006 and saw it gain popularity in large part because of its partnership with the Seattle-based coffee house. The breakup proved felicitous for Keurig: in late August, Starbucks unveiled plans to sell K-Cups throughout the United States, starting in November, and in Canada next March. According to Jeff Hansberry, president of global consumer products for Starbucks, sales are forecast to top US$1 billion.

But this news is a loss for Tassimo users, many of whom bought the coffee machine out of loyalty to Starbucks, not Kraft. A Facebook page called “Tassimo Division” has emerged for the disgruntled. Other consumer websites reveal that when rumours spread of an impending split, many people started buying Starbucks T-discs in bulk. “I stockpiled about an eight-month supply,” admits one commenter on “I’m really upset that they left me hanging here with nothing,” laments another named “tassimodepressed.”

“Nothing” isn’t accurate, of course. Kraft sells 25 options for the Tassimo, including Nabob and Maxwell House, and isn’t oblivious to the frustration. “We recognize some Tassimo consumers are disappointed,” says Kathy Murphy, director of corporate affairs, “and we intend to continue . . . bringing in more beverage choices.” That includes Gevalia, a premium Swedish coffee that until now has been hard to come by in North America. Will that stop Tassimo users from switching to Keurig, or has the battle just begun to brew?

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