Starbucks Refreshers energy drinks make global debut


Starbucks Coffee Company this week joined the estimated $8 billion energy drink business with the rollout of new caffeinated juices in three versions: instant mixes, ready-to-drink cans and handcrafted drinks in coffeehouse locations.

The Seattle-based coffeehouse chain said in March that it planned to debut a line of energy drinks called Starbucks Refreshers, one of a growing number of “billion dollar” business lines the company has designed for cross-channel development. The drinks are made with coffee extract from unroasted arabica beans, which gives the natural boost of caffeine in a juice-based drink.

Ready-to-drink canned versions of the drink have been slowly appearing in grocery and retail channels for several months, but this week two new flavors — Very Berry Hibiscus and Cool Lime — are available in participating Starbucks units in the U.S. and Canada, and soon will be in 15 international markets.

On Friday between noon to 3 p.m. local time, Starbucks locations in the U.S. and Canada will celebrate the launch by offering free, 12-ounce samples of the handcrafted versions of the energy drinks, which are mixed with pieces of fresh fruit.

The two new flavors will also be available in the form of powder that can be mixed with water as part of the VIA instant beverage line. VIA Refreshers will be available in U.S. coffeehouse locations for $5.95 per five-pack.

Coffeehouse locations, as well as various grocery and retail outlets, will also carry the ready-to-drink version of Refreshers, available in flavors that include lightly sparkling Raspberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade and Orange Melon.

Starbucks has rapidly been growing its collection of brands. Last year, the chain revealed plans to build its line of juices after acquiring the Evolution Fresh brand last year.

In June, Starbucks struck an agreement to acquire San Francisco-based Bay Bread LLC and its La Boulange bakery brand for $100 million in cash. The purchase will help beef up food offerings at Starbucks locations, but the company also plans to grow La Boulange into a national brand, as well as move into grocery and other retail channels with consumer packaged goods.

Starbucks is also continuing to aggressively grow its channel development division with packaged coffees such as the new Blonde roast that debuted in January, single-brew K-Cups and the instant coffee version of VIA Ready Brew — all of which are available both in Starbucks locations and grocery and retail outlets.

“Innovation is at the core of everything we do,” said Cliff Burrows, president, Starbucks Americas, in a statement Monday. “As the coffee category continues to evolve, our customers expect more and we are committed to bringing uniquely relevant products to market.”

At the end of its April-ended second quarter, Starbucks had 12,570 locations in the U.S., Canada and Latin America, among about 17,420 units worldwide.

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