Saving money on coffee just like Grandpa: Folgers targets broke coffee drinkers

The best part of waking up hasn't been Folgers for a decade or more. With Starbucks making gourmet coffee ubiquitous and boutique coffee roasters brewing ever-more-delightful java, Folgers is stuck in grandpa's mug. My brother-in-law and I give each other grimaces behind my dad's back when we drink the home brew at his house, and I've been known to bring my own beans when I'm visiting.

But grandpa is getting on now, and consumers looking for ways to save cash turn to their daily coffee beverage so often that saving $4 a day has a name: The Starbucks Factor, or the Latte Factor, depending on your brand loyalty (or lack thereof). But Folgers, Maxwell House and the even lesser-known competitors make their coffee from the ultra-cheap and inferior "Robusta" beans, in contrast to the "Arabica" beans used by upscale coffees. Robusta beans thrive at lower altitudes and produce far more beans per plant, and have twice the caffeine of Arabica beans; but their flavor, according to coffee connoisseurs, is extremely inadequate. How could a discriminating coffee drinker be persuaded to switch to Folgers, without creating a price disadvantage?

Instead of investing in better beans, Folgers invested in technology and marketing.

Obsessed With Coffee

    CRYSTAL BEACH, TX- SEPTEMBER 18: Al Newman makes some coffee on the front steps of the Crenshaw Middle School where he has been staying since Hurricane Ike came ashore last Saturday, on September 18, 2008 in Crystal Beach, Texas. Newman lost his camper in the storm and is still staying at the school and says he is a naturalist and likes the camping aspect of not having power or people around. Hurricane Ike caused wide spread damage and power outages through out the Texas coast and is responsible for several deaths. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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    Dancers in traditional costumes perform at the Bab al-Hara coffee shop as customers puff on waterpipes, in Beirut September 17, 2008. The name of the coffee shop refers to the famous Syrian soap opera "Bab al-Hara" that is broadcast during Ramadan. Picture taken September 17, 2008. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan (LEBANON)

    Reuters

    Dancers in traditional costumes perform at the Bab al-Hara coffee shop in Beirut September 17, 2008. The name of the coffee shop refers to the famous Syrian soap opera "Bab al-Hara" that is broadcast during Ramadan. Picture taken September 17, 2008. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan (LEBANON)

    Reuters

    Lebanese workers in traditional costumes stand at the main entrance of the Bab al-Hara coffee shop in Beirut September 17, 2008. The name of the coffee shop refers to the famous Syrian soap opera "Bab al-Hara" that is broadcast during Ramadan. Picture taken September 17, 2008. REUTERS/Khalil Hassan (LEBANON)

    Reuters

    A drive-through menu displays McDonald's new coffee products under the "McCafe" brand at one of their restaurants in Del Mar, California September 17, 2008. The hamburger chain, which has said it expects the new beverage program to add $1 billion to annual sales, plans to sell McCafe drinks in the majority of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants by the middle of next year. REUTERS/Lisa Baertlein (UNITED STATES)

    Reuters

    Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. mingles with coffee shop employees at the train station in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008, after arriving by Amtrak. Biden usually commutes form Delaware to Washington and back by train and is a regular customer of theirs. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    AP

    A Saudi man drinks Arabic coffee as he watches Satellite TV at his home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ,Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. Arabs are denouncing a Saudi cleric's edict that it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV stations that show "immoral" content. Many fear the fatwa could fuel vigilante attacks on the media. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

    AP

    A man watches from inside a coffee shop as supporters of Bolivia's President Evo Morales march in downtown Buenos Aires September 15, 2008. Clashes between Morales' supporters and opponents killed up to 30 people in the Bolivian Pando province last week as protests flared across the poor nation's eastern lowlands against the president's drive to redistribute land and change the constitution. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci (ARGENTINA)

    Reuters

    GALVESTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: People wait in line for food and coffee at a temporary shelter set up at Ball High School after being evacuated because of Hurricane Ike September 14, 2008 in Galveston, Texas. Ike made landfall yesterday morning at Galveston causing widespread wind and flood damage along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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    GALVESTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 14: People wait in line for food and coffee at a Salvation Army truck at a temporary shelter set up at Ball High School after being evacuated because of Hurricane Ike September 14, 2008 in Galveston, Texas. Ike made landfall yesterday morning at Galveston causing widespread wind and flood damage along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    Getty Images

Procter & Gamble has created a new step to the roasting process called "pre-dry" or "pre-roast", essentially similar to a slow-cooking process. Instead of roasting the bean over high heat while it's still green and tender, the bean will be dried through and, hopefully, end up with a less bitter or burnt taste.

The key will, of course, be convincing consumers that Folgers is for young, hip coffee lovers and not just those who grew up on diner coffee (best served hot so your taste buds are numbed). The new marketing campaign emphasizes the "enhanced" nature of the coffee with these sensorially-stimulating ads. Is the image of the tired working dad enough to convince a new generation of grandpas-to-be to switch? What do you think?

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