Starbucks' new Via instant coffee: Don't believe the hype

I took my little boys to Starbucks (SBUX) this morning to witness the hype about its new instant coffee, Via, and we had plenty to see.

A near-life size silhouette of a woman holding a packet of the company's new instant coffee greeted me on the door. A large, three-dimensional display took up most of the space opposite the counter where new products are usually placed, packed to the gills with Via packs, three for $2.95 or 12 for $9.95. The display featured more silhouettes, a man and a woman, both showing off their hipness and their Via (and yes, the figures are very evocative of iPod ads). The woman was holding Starbucks' new Via to go mug; it has plastic compartments for six packets of the instant coffee around the perimeter of the coffee cup, and a screw-off bottom. There was another display of three-pack Via envelopes to the right of the register, and still another display above the Starbucks cards in front of the register. A cardboard sign listed all the places where I could drink Via -- the "usage occasions," says Starbucks Director of Digital Media, Alex Wheeler -- picnic lunch, at the game, in the backyard, on a train, redeye flight, on the mountain, business trip, at the library (really? the library?).