Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Starbucks and Olive Oil Don't Mix... or Maybe They Do

By Herb Greenberg (View Archive)

In the decades of writing newspaper columns, online columns, and essays like I do here at Empire Financial Daily, I've learned that you never know what will resonate...

And I'm often surprised what the trigger will be... such as my recent Empire Financial Daily essay on the novel move by coffee giant Starbucks (SBUX) to offer up olive oil-infused coffee drinks. As I said in that essay...

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is back again – on an interim basis – and this time he's overseeing the rollout of Starbucks' new "Oleato" coffee drinks, which amount to infusing several hot and cold coffee drinks with olive oil. They're now available in Italy, and you can expect to see them in the U.S. starting in Southern California in the spring.

That's right – olive oil in coffee, which Schultz says "is a transformational moment in the history of our company, creating a new category, a new platform, and sense of discovery for our customers."

Empire Financial Daily readers certainly had plenty to say on the topic...

Among the comments...

"Olive oil is proven to be healthy. Some are better than others. In [the] health conscious graying of America it could be successful. It will ultimately depend on taste and cost. Who would have ever thought we would pay 5 bucks for a cup of coffee or pay for water." – Jeff R.

"Olive oil in coffee is a cheapie gimmick to delude Starbuckers into thinking that if they have olive oil in their coffee, they are on the Mediterranean diet. Don't think this will work. Sounds like Trump's bizarro 'cavefe.'" – Deborah M.

"Hey Herb, letting you know I just may be trying this new infusion. But only based on the fact that I work with Starbucks products and our store is licensed to buy their products. Personally, I can't stand many of Starbuck's roasts. And the one's I can stand I don't drink. I usually drink Green Mountain in the morning. I prefer the medium roasted organic brands. So much smoother going down than most others." – Peter P.

"Hi Herb, I rarely go into Starbucks and that is only to get something for my wife. I am almost always amazed by the steady stream of customers at various Starbucks. When they made the move to add more pastries and sandwiches they only increased their revenue. I have a very small and I mean very small investment in Starbucks.

"Do I think olive oil would make a difference? I have become a big fan of olive oil. However, from what I read, if you put olive oil into a hot drink or food then the polyphenol benefit is lost due to the temperature." ­– Steve O.

"Herb, just read your olive oil coffee post – I'm in Santa Monica and will definitely give it a try.

"One overlooked aspect of Starbucks expansion and growth is the people. I'm finding turnover and a struggle to find employees that buy into the brand are the biggest risks facing the company today.

"On the plus side, the Starbucks app, mobile ordering and rewards are best in class. McDonald's, by contrast, won't place your digital order until you're in the store." – Mark M.

"It is very, very unlikely that I will try olive oil coffee... especially at Starbucks." – Joe M.

"I'll take Bird Rock or Lofty coffee over a Starbucks any day. But Starbucks is a little like McDonald's: nothing to write home about but it provides a reliable baseline you can depend on when ya can't get the one you love." – Heather T.

"I loved your Starbucks story. Thoughtful. Honest. A pleasure to read. You are 'in the groove!' And I hope this note finds you happy and well." – Martin D.

"Herb, I've read some background on Mr. Schultz and am impressed with his ideas on business and how he built Starbucks. Have to get his book. In coming back a few times after retirement, just proves there is magic in [his] business that can't be replaced by just anybody. I will try his new coffee." – Richard S.

"Put 'olive oil' in coffee?!? 🤢 I'm Italian and think that's an awful combo! 🤮 Great article, btw!" – Rosanne C.

Herb comment: Personally, I probably won't try it... but then again, I drink my coffee black (if it's good, why would you dilute the taste?) and I don't put sugar in my espresso (if the shot has been pulled correctly, with good crema, it shouldn't need it).

I've also never had a macchiato, and while I have quite a compelling setup at my house (see below), I don't drink cappuccinos or lattes (but my wife does, and she says mine are better than most).

So when it comes to whether adding olive oil to coffee will be a hit, I'm obviously the wrong person to ask.

If you haven't weighed in on the debate yet, let me know what you think – send me an e-mail by clicking here.


Herb Greenberg
March 7, 2023