Beyond the Bean (Slideshow)

Starbucks shifts into better-for-you fare, offering healthful snacks, drinks and foodservice items

By
Erik J. Martin, CSP Correspondent

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Move over, doughnuts and Danishes. Retail space for coffee-paired products may get a lot more crowded, competitive and calorie-conscious now that Starbucks—the java king supreme—is headed toward a healthier, fresher menu direction.

If you haven’t been in a Starbucks for a while, be prepared for a culinary shock. In addition to its expansive array of hot-beverage choices, the chain has supplemented its brews with fresh juices and salads, hot sandwiches, and less-guilty sweets and snacks.

This shift has been strategic and well planned by the Seattle-based retailer. The company has forked over $750 million over the past two years to add three key new businesses to its arsenal: La Boulange cafe, which expands Starbucks’ pastry and baked-goods offerings; Teavana, which, coupled with Starbucks’ Tazo brand, ups the retailer’s edge in tea sales; and Evolution Fresh juices, which signals the chain’s foray into the $50 billion health-and-wellness arena. And to further attract health-conscious consumers, last fall Starbucks rolled out Evolution Harvest snack bars and trail mixes to vie with national brands such as Kind and Naked.

New Age of Nutritious

The notion of a national coffeehouse franchise embracing healthier may at first glance threaten sales of the chain’s array of scones, muffins and other fatty treats. But many experts, including Joseph Michelli, chief experience officer for The Michelli Experience in St. Petersburg, Fla., and author of “Leading the Starbucks Way,” say healthier foods are a perfect fit for Starbucks.

“They appeal to Starbucks’ primary core demographic of urban, young, mobile people who are attracted to healthier lifestyles,” Michelli says. “They’ve done an excellent job at adding certain items to their menu that allow people to make healthier choices on a ritualized, daily basis.

“You can now go into any Starbucks store at any day-part and make sound, healthy choices.”

Starbucks’ move toward healthier snack options has been incremental and varies by markets, with items such as whole grain oatmeal, Bistro Box protein plates, whole-wheat bagels, and spinach and feta breakfast wraps paving the way.

“This is due to a confluence of factors, including the refocusing they did after the economy struggled starting in 2008,” Michelli says, “and also due to the general trending in our culture for more nutritious offerings and wider consciousness of consumed calories.”

Tim Powell, vice president of strategy for Big Red Rooster, Columbus, Ohio, agrees.

“Since 2008, Starbucks has made serious inroads into offering not just two pricing tiers of items, but also ensuring that it provides low fat, non-dairy options,” Powell says. “And its snacks have evolved from muffins to parfaits and fruit cups. With the societal pressures and greater consumer awareness   of obesity-related ailments, it is extremely important that restaurants do the right thing and offer healthy options. Even if consumers don’t buy them, they have to be there.”

CONTINUED: Responding to Demand

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