- Starbucks is launching olive oil coffee in Italy, with plans for a US launch this spring.
- The new “Oleato” line is the brainchild of CEO Howard Schultz, who will step down in April.
- Schultz teased the release during the company’s earnings call earlier in February, calling it “alchemy” and a “game-changer.”
Starbucks’ first Oleato launch will launch three olive oil-infused beverages in stores across Italy.
Starbucks has a new way to personalize its coffee: olive oil.
The coffee giant is launching its “Oleato” line Wednesday at its roughly two dozen Italian locations and plans to bring it to Southern California this spring. The United Kingdom, Japan and the Middle East will follow later this year.
Oleato means “with oil,” according to Starbucks.
The idea grew out of a trip outgoing CEO Howard Schultz took to Italy this summer, where he witnessed Sicilians drinking olive oil as a daily ritual. He too started drinking olive oil in addition to his daily coffee and decided that Starbucks should try to combine the two.
Schultz teased the release during the company’s earnings call earlier in February, calling it “alchemy” and a “game-changer.”
The first lineup of Oleato drinks will infuse olive oil into Starbucks’ Caffé Latte, Iced Shaken Espresso and cold foam. The Partanna olive oil is steamed with oat milk for the latte, shaken into the iced espresso drink and infused with vanilla sweet cream foam to create the “golden” foam that surpasses cold brews.
A press, or spoon, of the Partanna olive oil will also be available to order to create custom drinks.
“It makes beverages richer,” Starbucks Chief Marketing Officer Brady Brewer told CNBC. “The word that many people used is ‘luxury’.”
One of the main ways Starbucks customers choose to customize their coffee is by changing the texture, Brewer said. Cold foam, which the coffee chain introduced to the market in 2018, is one of the most ordered modifiers as consumers start drinking more iced drinks.
Cold drinks accounted for more than three quarters of drink orders in November. In particular, iced espresso drinks are Starbucks’ largest category by sales volume and the fastest growing segment. That’s why the company chose to include the Iced Shaken Espresso in the Oleato launch.
Oleato drinks could also appeal to health-conscious consumers, Brewer said. Studies have suggested that consuming olive oil can reduce inflammation and help heart health. Celebrities including Kourtney Kardashian have endorsed drinking it, while startups like Saint Supply sell their own olive oil expressly for drinking, not cooking.
Consider the launch a parting gift from Schultz, whose third term as head of the company comes to an end in April. Newcomer Laxman Narasimhan will succeed him after spending months at Starbucks learning the ins and outs of the company. Schultz told CNBC in September that he is “never coming back” as CEO.
“As I prepare to pass the mantle of leadership to Laxman and the rest of the Executive Leadership Team, it is my deepest desire to share this moment of inspiration and love with you,” Schultz wrote in a letter to employees on Tuesday. .
The launch of Oleato is a flashback to Schultz’s first trip to Italy in 1983, when he was director of marketing for Starbucks. While there, he visited espresso bars and got inspired to try and bring the same culture back to the US. His bosses disagreed with the idea, so Schultz created his own coffee chain called Il Giornale and eventually bought Starbucks, merging the two chains. and grow the company into the giant it is today.
There are echoes of Schultz’s latest transition from the CEO position.
In 2016, he committed to opening Reserve Roasteries worldwide and stepped down to focus on that mission. The luxury coffee megastores were designed to help Starbucks compete with the likes of Intelligentsia Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee. However, Schultz’s successor, Kevin Johnson, pushed back initial ambitious plans to build several dozen Reserve Roasteries to focus on other priorities.