Starbucks to offer instant coffee packets in China

US beverage giant Starbucks said Tuesday it would start offering its instant coffee packets in China, as the firm aims to more than triple its stores in the fast growing market by 2015.

Consumers will be able to buy the "VIA" branded single-serving coffee packets at Starbucks stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan from April 6, John Culver, president of Starbucks, told reporters at a news conference.

The price is set at 25 yuan ($3.8) for a pack of three and 88 yuan for a pack of 12.

The Seattle-based company also aims to expand the number of stores in China to 1,500 over the next five years, Culver said, without disclosing any financial details.

Starbucks currently has around 450 stores across the country, according to the company.

"China is a very important market for Starbucks," Culver said.

"As we look out into the future, and as we look at China in particular, we have never been more optimistic of the growth opportunities that we have," he said.

He added that the company would seek to expand its distribution network beyond Starbucks retail stores into convenience outlets and other channels.

No timetable for the plan was given.

Wang Jinlong, president of Starbucks China, said growth in the nation was "very very fast" and the firm now targeted increasing numbers of second and third-tier cities.

The company estimates that China has a massive potential market of 200-250 million coffee drinkers, he said.

"So I believe the prospect is huge for our development in China," he said.

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