By Quentin Fottrell
Starbucks wants to do for Vitamin C what it did for caffeine. Fancy a Venti Strawberry-Orange-Acai Berry Smoothie with cinnamon-scented whipped cream? And would you like a 370-calorie Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie with raisins, butter, cranberries and oats to go with that? Hold that thought.
Starbucks is getting into the juice business. The company shelled out $30 million for juice drink maker Evolution Fresh. Jeff Hansberry, president of consumer packaged goods and Seattle’s Best Coffee, says the “super-premium juice market” is a $1.6 billion industry.
The acquisition didn’t come cheap and neither will the smoothies. The suggested retail price for the 15.2-ounce size juice currently ranges between $3.75 and $4.75. Some Starbucks aficionados at the branch on 47th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon seemed accustomed to those prices. “That sounds about right,” says Lacretia Griffith, 35, who works in finance for a sports company and says she doesn’t always have the time to make her own smoothies.
And, despite the mass marketing, the juice will be fresh, according to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. So why not do it at home instead for a fraction of the price? Evolution Juice uses “high pressure pasteurization,” Schultz said on a conference call, so it’s never heated and retains the vitamins, enzymes and all things nice that come with your fruit.
But the CEO of the Seattle-based coffee company maintains that it’s not the same as squeezing oranges at home. Schultz promises more than mere liquidized fruit. He says the company will bring “theater and romance” to the smoothie retail experience. And, naturally, the convenience too.
The juices bars will be separate stores from the coffee ones, but some of the products will be sold at Starbucks as well. Both Schultz and Hansberry say that Starbucks aims to create a strong local following in a similar fashion to independent juice stores as more people drink juice for health reasons and as a detox meal replacement.
Starbucks already offers some smoothies, but expanding further into juice may encourage non-coffee drinking consumers to open their wallets. Drew Ryan, 27, a recent MBA graduate, was accompanying friends to Starbucks, but he didn’t buy anything. “I’m just here for the walk,” he says. “Will I buy a Starbucks smoothie? I’ll buy it once. If I like it, I’ll probably buy it again.”