At one point, Green Mountain (GMCR) seemed like the perfect success story. It had a great product, and customers loved the convenience of its single serving Keurig coffee brewer.
However, like all good products, the success of the Keurig caught the attention of other companies, most notably Starbuck's (SBUX). With the huge success of its brick-and-mortar locations, Starbucks knew that it could leverage its strong brand recognition to pose a serious threat to Green Mountain, so it introduced its own single-serving brewer, the Verismo.
During Starbucks' most recent quarter, the company reported selling 150,000 Verismo units, which pales in comparison to the 2 million Keurig's that Green Mountain sells, but is still respectable considering how new the product it on the market. Considering how long the Keurig was the only single brewer on the market, it makes sense that customers will take some time to warm up to another choice, but if any company can take over the market it is Starbucks.
After taking a big hit last year when Starbucks announced its plans, Green Mountain has been trending higher since November, but once again today is taking a beating after reporting its fiscal first quarter results.
Last night the company reported fiscal first quarter earnings of $0.76 per share, which was well above the $0.65 that analysts had forecast, but that is only part of the story. Looking ahead to its current quarter, the company issued a sales growth forecast lower than analysts were expecting, as the company works through unsold inventory that it has as a result of poor holiday season.
As these two companies fight for control of the fastest growing segment of the coffee market, the stakes are high. Over the last year, the market has grown over 140%, and is currently valued at around $8 billion, so both companies are going to fight as hard as possible to control it.
For now Green Mountain is winning the war, but Starbucks is putting itself in a great position to chip away at the company’s lead. Green Mountain has the best brand recognition when it comes to single-cup brewers, but Starbucks has the bigger brand recognition in general.
It will take some time to find out who can control this lucrative market. The real test will come when current Keurig owners are forced to replace their current brewer. Will they stick with Keurig, or decide to jump ship and give the Verismo a try?
If I had to bet on it, I would bet that Starbucks will eventually come out the winner.
Michael Fowlkes is a financial writer who has been with the Fresh Brewed Media family since 2004. Over the course of his tenure with Fresh Brewed Media, he has worn many hats, including portfolio manager, options analyst, and writer. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in Accounting and got his start in finance working as a stock trader for six years at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Va. His articles typically cover big-picture events and forecasting what impact they will have on the stock market. In addition to writing for Fresh Brewed Media, Michael also wrote for AOL's BloggingStocks for three years, focusing most of his attention on the energy and technology sectors. Follow him on Twitter at @MFatMICenter.