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McDonald's to introduce McCafe coffee drinks in retail stores

McDonald's said on Wednesday it will roll out coffee drinks in retail stores early next year, part of a plan to increase awareness of its McCafe line of frappes, lattes and other espresso-based drinks.

Starting next year, the bottled drinks will be distributed to retail stores nationwide through a partnership with the Coca-Cola Co. and come in three flavors: caramel, vanilla and mocha. Starbucks has a similar line of bottled coffee drinks available at convenience stores and other retailers.

McDonald's also is expanding its McCafe offering in restaurants. The world's largest burger chain said it will add a caramel macchiato, Americano and cappuccino to its line of lattes and mochas. The cappuccino will be available with French vanilla, caramel or hazelnut flavor, and the macchiato will be offered hot or iced. They will be offered for $2, as part of a discount drink promotion McDonald's started earlier this year to spur repeat visits.

McDonald's has struggled for years to win back customers from its rivals and get existing ones to come back more often. The company has said it believes that improved coffee options are a key to this effort, because "coffee creates a habit." In other words, people are more likely to visit McDonald's every day for a coffee than they are for a burger and fries. McDonald's also has made other changes to make bakery items more prominent in its restaurants, like creating customer-facing bakery display cases for muffin tops and other assorted morning goodies.

The chain's emphasis on McCafe coffee and bakery items, along with other efforts to win back customers, were evident in the most recent quarter when it reported higher traffic in the U.S. for the first time in CEO Steve Easterbrook's tenure.

McCafe started in Australia in 1993, and was brought to the U.S. national menu in 2009.

sbomkamp@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @SamWillTravel

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