SEATTLE (AP) -- Starbucks Corp. is adding a lighter-roast coffee as the company tries to reach a wider base of consumers.The company unveiled its "Starbucks Blonde Roast" Tuesday, a major departure from the company's typically dark-roasted beans.Starbucks has long faced criticism from people who feel its coffee is too dark or bitter. The company said it developed the new roast for the large number of U.S. consumers who prefer a lighter coffee.The company, citing Nielsen research, said that more than 40 percent of U.S. coffee drinkers prefer a lighter-roast coffee. The new product represents a major market opportunity for Starbucks too, as more than 70 percent of total premium coffee sales in grocery stores are of light and medium roast coffee."We recognized the unmet consumer need for a super-premium light roast coffee, and our coffee developers went to work to craft a great-tasting, quality lighter roast coffee we are proud to stand behind," Cliff Burrows, president of the Americas for Starbucks said in a statement. "This is a significant opportunity for Starbucks to gain a greater share of the brewed coffee market -- both in our stores and down the coffee aisle."The new roast will be sold in its stores and at retailers beginning in January.Starbucks also will try to help consumers differentiate between the various roasts and will soon begin organizing its coffee in stores by three rankings: blonde, medium and dark.Starbucks Coffee Co. is the world's largest coffee company with roughly 17,000 stores worldwide and products in retailers across the country.Starbucks shares rose 94 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $42.10 in afternoon trading amid a broad market rally.