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    Competition's A-Brewing

    Fast feeders compete with c-stores for coffee sales by launching fancier cups of joe.

    NEW YORK -- Facing upscale coffee heat not just from Starbucks but from Dunkin' Donuts, 7-Eleven and ExxonMobil stores, fast-food giants are brewing up fancier java to compete, USA Today reported.

    Burger King will officially launch its BK Joe brewed 100% from premium arabica beans. Sold in decaf, regular and "turbo strength" (extra caffeine), the coffee will be in all of Burger King's more than 7,000 U.S. stores by the end of November, reported USA Today .

    BK Joe is aimed at giving the chain more profit from the nation's coffee craze. Eighty percent of Americans drink coffee -- 53 percent every day vs. 49 percent in 2004, reports the National Coffee Association.

    Joining Burger King with better brews to go after those drinkers is McDonald's, which tested a premium roast and plans a national rollout soon; Chick-fil-A, which added a Cafe Blends line this summer; and Subway, which is trying gourmet java in some stores to lure morning traffic, according to USA Today .

    Beverages are important in the restaurant business as a typically low-maintenance, high-profit item.

    "Depending on how you price it, you can make 90 percent margins-plus," Joe Pawlak, a consultant at industry tracker Technomic told USA Today .

    Quick-serve hot coffee sales in the USA this year are expected to be $11 billon, with about half at coffee shops such as Starbucks, Technomic told USA Today . Regular-coffee dollar sales are expected to grow 7 percent annually for the next three years, while specialty drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos, pegged to grow 15 percent annually.

    But it's not Starbucks' customers that Burger King is trying to win, reports USA Today . It is looking, with BK Joe, to keep its coffee-loving customers from being lured away by the improved quick cups of joe being rolled out by fast-food rivals, as well as convenience stores and gas stations.

    "Our customer isn't likely to wait in line at a Starbucks or coffeehouse," Burger King chief concept officer Denny Marie Post told USA Today . "They're going elsewhere for a consistent cup of coffee, (such as) gas stations and convenience stores."

    Last October, ExxonMobil launched its Bengal Traders coffee line. The gourmet blends are available in more than 1,200 Tiger Mart stations. While ExxonMobil would not disclose sales, "we're encouraged by our first year," Russ Ritenour, manager for dispensed beverages, told USA Today .

    Even as Burger King ups its coffee offerings, the competition continues to improve brews, too.

    On Monday, 7-Eleven is slated to announce the addition of a World Roasts gourmet line to its already upgraded selections.

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