Can a Coffee Company Upstage Apple's New iPhone?

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. single-serve coffee capsules are arranged for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. Green Mountain, based in Waterbury, Vermont, has been facing increasing competition from private-label capsules made by Kroger Co. and Safeway Inc. that fit into Keurig brewers. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
In retrospect, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters may have picked a lousy day to host its first ever investor summit.

The company behind the Keurig single-cup coffee brewer chose Sept. 10 to host investors, analysts and journalists as it talks up its java-rich past and unveils what's brewing in the future.

That also happens to be the widely sourced date of Apple's (AAPL) new iPhone media event.

We know where headlines will be made.

Apple shares peaked above $700 the morning that the iPhone 5 came out. Fans and investors alike have been hungry for innovation out of Apple as profit margins have contracted and the tech giant has surrendered market share in the smartphone space.

However, don't dismiss Green Mountain's potential to make things interesting. There are some neat things in the works at the Vermont-based company that created a new market with its single-serve brewers just as Apple did with the iPhone and iPad.

Brewing Liquid Gold

Green Mountain (GMCR) is no stranger to the beverage market outside of the premium blasts of coffee that consumers associate with the Keurig brand. The company has sold K-Cup portion packs to make tea, cocoa and even apple cider for years.

However, Green Mountain aimed to expand its market a couple of years ago when it introduced a Brew Over Ice line of K-Cups offering iced teas, chilled coffees and even pre-sweetened fruit drinks. It's a simple process. Consumers are asked to fill up a 16-ounce glass with ice to cool down the beverage that is brewed hot just like its traditional drinks.
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Some refreshment seekers may not be so keen on warming something up just to cool it down, so Green Mountain is working on new possibilities.

"We see opportunity in juices, carbonated beverages, sports drinks and enhanced waters," the company said during last month's quarterly earnings call.

Introducing carbonation would be a game changer and not just because it would get in the way of the budding empire that SodaStream (SODA) has been working on in recent years. If it's able to offer up fortified fitness beverages or juice drinks that don't taste as if they've just gone through a coffee maker, Green Mountain has a real opportunity to expand its already dominant market position in the single-serve market.

There are other possibilities, too. Blogs and articles in the past have discussed how brewing coffee-less water can be used for instant soup, oatmeal or noodles. What if Green Mountain hops on the liquid meal bandwagon by introducing a line of K-Cup soups?

It may not sound very appetizing, but -- then again -- few thought that a single-serve coffee platform would replace the drip java pop system that had existed for decades.

Green Mountain may actually have some cool things to show off. Can the same thing be said about Apple?

It'll Be iGreat or iYawn

Apple stock has fallen sharply since the day that the iPhone 5 hit the market, but it's been rallying in recent weeks in anticipation of new hardware.

Apple better not miss.

The Cupertino bellwether is naturally tight-lipped about what it will unveil, but there's plenty of chatter about a cheaper iPhone line, a fingerprint scanner on the home button and a gold-colored option.

The form factor should remain the same. Reports out of Asia tapping Apple's supply chain seem to indicate that a larger-sized iPhone won't be coming this time around. Samsung has overtaken Apple as the global leader in smartphones, largely on the popularity of its five-inch Galaxy phones that run Android.

The cheaper iPhones may be a pretty big deal, especially overseas in markets where carriers don't subsidize the cost of new handsets. The cheaper iPhone may also be huge for T-Mobile (TMUS), which is the only one of the four major stateside wireless carriers that doesn't subsidize hardware costs.

However, since so much is already expected out of Apple -- and so little is known about what, if anything Green Mountain will introduce -- it may not be a surprise if Keurig is the one that ultimately draws the most attention in three weeks.

Mark your calendars. Sept. 10 is going to be a busy day.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and SodaStream. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and SodaStream. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and SodaStream.

The 20 Most Valuable Brands In The World
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Can a Coffee Company Upstage Apple's New iPhone?

Brand Value: $27.8 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 34%

What Happened: MasterCard's rank flew up nine spots this year to the 20th most valuable brand in the world, and Millward Brown VP Oscar Yuan attributes that ascent to "the growth of mobile technology." As consumers up their online shopping habits, brands like Mastercard and Visa reap the rewards for offering noncash payment methods.

Brand Value: $34.36 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 34%

What Happened: "They're really into the big data," Yuan explained of the German tech brand, "So [the increase in value] is reflective of a consistent storyline: The growth of mobile shopping." SAP has the big data solutions enterprise companies need.

Brand Value: $36.2 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 5%

What Happened: Walmart, however, has mastered the art of brick and mortar shopping. "You can't buy milk online," Yuan said. The retail giant has a large and loyal consumer base that is constantly growing - even internationally.


Brand Value: $39.7

Percent Change v. 2012: -8%

What Happened: Vodafone's 8% drop in value can be attributed to O2 and Orange's recent success. But at almost $40 billion, it is still one of the largest mobile carriers in the UK.

Brand Value: $41.1 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: -1%

What Happened: While Americans might have never heard of the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Yuan explains that in its home country, "the logo is ubiquitous." ICBC is the first of two Chinese brands in the top 20, a number which is largely due to the countries growing middle class.

Brand Value: $42.7 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 15%

What Happened: "I think a lot of the growth is really tied to several consumer trends - and I'm talking about the need for consumers to shop online mobile devices," Yuan told BI. Consumers need to get the products they bought on the internet somehow, and that's where UPS comes in.


Brand Value: $45.7 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 34%

What Happened: It's almost impossible for brick and mortar shops to compete with Amazon's wide selection, low prices, and mastery of the mobile marketplace - easily allowing consumers to buy anything from anywhere on their phone or tablet. Recent acquisitions of and Goodreads also show the company's determination to dominate all aspects of mobile book consumption and sharing.

"There's no stopping amazon as they go international," Yuan said."


Brand Value: $47.7 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 20%

What Happened: After acquiring Wachovia in 2008, Wells Fargo successfully expanded from a California-based bank to a national name. Coming from California also helped Well's Fargo's image with consumers considering that it was one of the few banks to remain unscathed during the financial crisis. "It also started a major rebranding strategy expansion," Yuan said.

Brand Value: $53 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 8%

What Happened: Verizon got a boost after Apple opened its services to carriers other than just AT&T. While Verizon and AT&T's rivalry heats up, Yuan predicts that the competition will up both brands' game. "As data devices continues to proliferate, we will continue to see Verizon do well," he said.

Brand Value: $55.3 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 21%

What Happened: "GE ... continued to be one of the most well respected consumer and industrial brands in the world," Yuan said. And the public is starting to see that it makes more than just light bulbs. General Electric has dedicated major marketing dollars to making sure that consumers know it produces everything from airplane engines to wind turbines to medical equipment. Hammering in its dedication to innovation, a recent ad campaign even enlisted the help of famous robots.

"In terms of B2B, GE is one of the most well respected brands," Yuan continued, citing that it was often used in business school case studies.

Brand Value: $55.4 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 18%

What Happened: China Mobile is the largest mobile carrier and brand in China, so it's a no-brainer that it's one of the most valuable brands in the world. "There are more mobile phone subscribers in China than in the U.S.," Yuan said.

Brand Value: $56 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 46%

What Happened: A key way to bolster global presence is to sponsor the Olympics. But that's not the only thing that upped Visa's brand value so drastically. As one of the most trusted names in non-cash payments, Visa has gained clout in the world of online shopping and mobile payments.

Brand Value: $69.4 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: -6%

What Happened: Marlboro is a top 10 regular, which goes to show that even though smoking is restricted in the U.S. doesn't mean that the rest of the world has laid off the habit. "Marlboro has consistently invested in the brand ever since its inception," Yuan said. "The rugged cowboy is very strong and consistent globally."

To put it another way, "about 25% of world's population are smokers, and they use it 5 to 10 times a day. I don't drink 10 bottles of water a day." That's getting your brand out there.

Brand Value: $69.8 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: -9%

What Happened: As a $70 billion brand, Microsoft is in great shape even in spite of a 9% value decrease. Microsoft is a powerhouse and has a reputation as one of the strongest tech brands in the business. But, Yuan notes, "with consumers, there's confusion as to where Microsoft fits." The company's fortune is largely tied with the PC business, but it has emerged on the mobile scene with the Surface and other devices. The company went through a major rebranding in the summer of 2012 to stay relevant.

Brand Value: $75.5 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 10%

What Happened: AT&T is another company to gain value due to the increasing U.S. consumption of mobile products. For a long time, the service provider had an exclusive deal with the iPhone, so it became synonymous with the new technology. What's really interesting, however, is that even when Apple opened the iPhone up to Samsung and T-Mobile, AT&T's value didn't go down.

Brand Value: $78.4

Percent Change v. 2012: 6%

What Happened: "What's consistently impressive about Coca-Cola is its ability to innovate," Yuan said. "People think that soda consumption is declining, but Coke is turning the business on its head." For example, this year Coca-Cola released a series of freestyle machines which allows consumers and retailers to mix their own flavors of the soda syrup to make their own individual Coca-Cola. The company is constantly innovating and staying fresh.

Brand Value: $90.3 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: -5%

What Happened: Yuan noted that one of McDonald's gifts was the ability to listen to consumers' sentiments and adapt, particularly to growing health concerns. "It has come out with a much healthier menu with apple slices, oatmeal, and a Chicken McWrap which has done well," he said.

McDonald's is also gaining a stronghold in the coffee space, which should be an interesting new endeavor to follow.

Brand Value: $112.5 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: -3%

What Happened: At $112.5 billion, IBM's three percent value decrease is not a substantial figure. IBM is known as a company that consistently delivers year after year, Yuan told BI. And it is particularly hailed in the B2B sphere.

Yuan also noted that its Ogilvy-made "Smarter Planet" campaign, in which the company explained its plans to help clients innovate and make the world a better place, inspired consumers to believe in the brand.

Brand Value: $113.7 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 5%

What Happened: Google has effectively taught consumers that it is more than just a search-based company. With maps, mail, shopping, and more, Google is integrated into everyone's lives. The company also made recent headlines about its new contribution to the hardware world in the form of Google Glass. "It will be interesting to see how Google Glass will contribute to the brand value, but now it's too soon to tell," Yuan said.

Brand Value: $185 billion

Percent Change v. 2012: 1%

What Happened: In spite of harsh Wall Street analysis and media speculation regarding Tim Cook's leadership capabilities, Apple continues to be a strong brand in the eyes of consumers - a major value measurement for Millward Brown. "Despite what the press says and stock market says," Yuan noted, "Apple in the eyes of the consumers is the gold standard."

In the last eight years, Apple's value has increased 1,045% - only topped by Subway's meteoric 5,145% rise. (Although Subway still hasn't broken the top 20.)

Those companies are constantly innovating to stay on the top.[Those companies are constantly innovating to stay on the top.]The gay pride Oreo, from Kraft's Facebook page.

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