Starbucks Corp is going Blonde, expanding its coffee lineup with its lightest roast to date in a move aimed at wooing more customers and capturing a bigger share of the U.S. coffee market.

The world's biggest coffee company is known for its dark roasts, which have prompted some critics to say the chain's coffee tastes burned. The new, lighter roast unveiled on Tuesday is milder in body and acidity than Starbucks' traditional coffees and the company expects it to appeal to a broad audience.

Mass-market competitors McDonald's Corp and Dunkin' Donuts offer milder brewed coffees and in recent years have added lattes, mochas and other sorts of fancy espresso drinks popularized by Starbucks.

We think this is a big opportunity, Jeff Hansberry, president of channel development for Starbucks, told Reuters.

According to Starbucks research, more than 40 percent of U.S. coffee drinkers -- or about 54 million consumers -- prefer a lighter roast coffee.

Additionally, nearly 71 percent of all packaged coffee sales in the grocery aisle are either light or medium roasted coffee.

Starbucks will begin selling its new Blonde blends in January through Starbucks cafes and supermarkets.

Starbucks cafes also will brew a Blonde blend alongside its other daily coffees. Breakfast Blend is currently the lightest coffee available at Starbucks, while French Roast is at the darkest end of the roast spectrum.

Starbucks' last major addition to its brewed coffee lineup came in 2008, when it introduced Pike Place as an everyday brew. Chief Executive Howard Schultz later that year said Pike Place gave the company an incremental bump in sales.

The company debuted Via instant coffee in 2009 and expects it to one day grow into a billion-dollar business.

Starbucks restarted profit growth in 2010 after a two-year restructuring that involved slashing costs and shuttering almost 1,000 cafes globally. Since then, investors have enjoyed quarterly profits that often topped analysts' views.

Starbucks shares -- up roughly 80 percent since the beginning of 2010 -- gained 1.4 percent to $41.73 on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Dave Zimmerman)