Starbucks’ new drinks contain a spoonful of olive oil in each cup

New York (CNN) Starbucks wants you to give olive oil coffee a shot. Real.

The coffee chain is introducing a new line of drinks made with extra virgin olive oil. To be clear, the drinks aren’t just flavored with olive oil, nor do they have a hint of it. Each one is actually made with a spoonful of oil, adding 120 calories to the total. With some drinks you can see a slippery oil shine in the cup and you don’t even have to squint.

Three olive oil drinks are available for purchase at Starbucks cafes in Italy starting this week. Each contains Oleato, Starbucks’ word for the new line, in the name.

There’s an Oleato latte with oat milk and olive oil, an Oleato ice shaken espresso with oat milk, hazelnut flavor and olive oil, and the Oleato golden foam cold brew, made with a version of Starbucks’ sweet milk foam infused with two servings of olive oil. Versions of those drinks will arrive in Southern California this spring, with more details on the US launch. They will be rolled out to other markets in the UK, Middle East and Japan this year.

Starbucks Oleato drinks are made with extra virgin olive oil.

Like other major chains, Starbucks often changes its menu, rolling out or introducing limited edition seasonal items new ingredients such as oat milk. But this launch is much bigger, Brady Brewer, Starbucks’ chief marketing officer, told CNN.

“It’s one of the biggest launches we’ve had in decades,” he noted. “Rather than a flavor or a product, it’s really a platform,” he said, meaning customers can use olive oil to personalize certain drinks.

The company is betting that people will hear about the concoction and try it because they want to know what it tastes like. And maybe because they’ve heard that extra virgin olive oil has health benefits.

Howard Schultz, interim CEO of Starbucks, is interviewed by Poppy Harlow at Asaro Farm in Sicily.

Starbucks is going out with Oleato. Adding fat to coffee is not new. You can do it the old fashioned way, with cream or milk, or even butter. Olive oil coffee recipes exist online.

But consumers certainly aren’t clamoring for olive oil coffee. And Starbucks is launching the line at a time when supply chains are fragile, consumers are watching their budgets, and baristas, some of whom are so frustrated with the company that they’re joining a union, are already struggling with complicated drink orders.

So why is Starbucks launching this important new line? Two words: Howard Schultz.

Full circle

Last year, Schultz met olive oil producer Tommaso Asaro, who introduced him to the habit of consuming a tablespoon of olive oil every day. Schultz learned more about the practice this summer while visiting Sicily, then picked up the habit himself. He wondered if he could combine it with his daily coffee routine.

“When we got together and started doing this ritual, I said to [Asaro]I know you think I’m going crazy, but have you ever thought of infusing a tablespoon of olive oil with Starbucks coffee? “He thought it was a little strange.” Asaro is the president of United Olive Oil, where Starbucks sources its olive oil.

Howard Schultz and Tommaso Asaro, president of United Olive Oil, which produces the Partanna olive oil that Starbucks uses for Oleato.

For Schultz, making business decisions based on visits to Italy is not new.

Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982, 11 years after the first Starbucks location opened (the original Starbucks sold whole coffee beans). In 1982, Starbucks was still a small company, with a total of four stores. Schultz, who had come on board as director of operations and marketing, visited Milan in 1983 and became enamored with the city’s café culture. The rest, he says, is history.

“My Starbucks journey will come full circle when I return to Milan later this month to introduce something much bigger than any new promotion or beverage,” Schultz said during an analyst call in February, teasing the new line.

In 1983, Howard Schultz was inspired by Milan. Last year he took notes from Sicily, where olive oil is produced. Partanna, in the picture, is a town in Sicily close to Asaro Farm. It is the namesake of the oil used in Oleato.

Speaking to CNN’s Harlow, he predicted the new platform will “transform the coffee industry” and be “a highly profitable new addition to the company.”

It’s one thing to toy with the idea of ​​adding olive oil to coffee on a whim, and another to come up with a range of drinks that could attract customers all over the world.

For that, Schultz turned to his Starbucks team in Seattle, where the coffee chain is headquartered. There they had to figure out how to make olive oil coffee taste good.

A unique case

Usually, Starbucks doesn’t come up with new drinks based on ideas from the CEO.

“This is a pretty unique case,” Brewer told CNN. But, he noted, “we have ideas that come from all over.”

Starbucks’ beverage team came up with about 12 options, which were narrowed down to the three now available in Starbucks’ Italian cafes. (The Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan serves five Oleato drinks, including a deconstructed espresso drink, an iced cortado, and an espresso martini, all with olive oil).

Starbucks opened its first Italian location, the roastery, in 2018, a decision that has raised eyebrows among locals. But five years later, it managed to expand in the country. before the launch of Oleato, Schultz is back in Italy to see how Italians react. “What if they don’t like it?” Harlow asked. In that case, “I’m not coming back to Seattle again,” Schultz joked.

A barista pours extra virgin olive oil into a cold foam of passion fruit before mixing it into the espresso.

In recent years, beverage companies have incorporated ingredients such as turmeric or CBD into their recipes that customers consider healthy or provide certain benefits, such as promoting sleep. Starbucks doesn’t make any health claims with Oleato, but hopes that through their own research, people will come to see it as a healthy choice.

And those extra 120 calories? “We haven’t seen that as a barrier,” Brewer said. “We’re not too worried about that.”

Brewer and Schultz also turned down some of the other challenges.

And in terms of the likelihood of people spending extra money for the oil, Brewer said customers see Starbucks as an “affordable luxury.” In the last three months of 2022, sales at Starbucks stores that have been open for at least 13 months globally increased by 5%, despite higher prices.

As Brewer and Schultz see it, the only risk is if the drinks don’t live up to taste.

The proof, they say, is in the cup.

The taste test

In New York, this reporter got to taste four Oleato drinks: the hot oat milk latte, golden foam cold brew, ice shaken espresso with oat milk and hazelnut, and an ice cold cortado as served at the coffee roastery in Milan.

I could see the oil in the cold drinks – it gave the cold foam a light green hue and appeared as a thin, bubbly layer on top of the shaken espresso and cortado.

At first sip I liked them all. For me, the golden foam on the cold brew had the strongest olive oil flavor – nutty and sweet and surprising, as promised. I could detect it in a more subtle way in the cortado and the espresso. In the hot latte I didn’t taste it at all.

A cold brew, heavy on the olive oil.

But after a few sips of each, it felt like too much.

I usually drink regular coffee with a vegetable milk, preferably unsweetened. So the sweet cold drinks – especially the shaken espresso and cortado – felt like a wonderful indulgence. They would have been great without the olive oil, which seemed like an unnecessary flourish.

Starbucks describes the drinks as luscious and velvety, thanks to the oil. But to me, they just started to feel heavy. And a while after I tried the drinks, I felt the oil on my lips.

It turns out I prefer my olive oil with food. Starbucks will have to wait and see if most people disagree.






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