Starbucks continues to be among the few restaurant chains to see steady growth. Obviously, this industry is very tough and with consumer tastes and preferences evolving—and more competitors trying to capture the shifting market share—the community can get a little stifling. But with sales up 40 percent over the last two years (to $21.3 billion), Starbucks is on a healthy path.
Still, they are not going to rest on their laurels. Instead, the coffee brand has decided to expand its product line (again); this time with a blonde espresso.
“We originally set the standard for a dark, boldly roasted coffee,” comments Starbucks VP of Global Coffee Andrew Linnemann. “In this case, we broke a few of our own rules by taking a lighter approach to espresso, which created a bright taste with sweet citrus notes and a smooth body.”
Of course, the company set a new standard 50 years ago with the launch of a dark, rich “Full City Roast.” This was the first dark coffee to reach consumers who were more familiar with “robusta” coffee in cans (think Hills Bros and Folgers). Three young roommates—Gordon Bowker, Jerry Baldwin, and Ziv Siegel—had gained a taste for Italian-style espresso and started roasting their own beans in an effort to develop a coffee with more depth of flavor similar to their new European palate. Howard Schultz bought the company just a few years later.
And Starbucks has not abandoned that bean in five decades. This new concept, though, is simply a way to offer something for those with lighter sensibilities. The light-roasted espresso (blonde) has been described as “smooth and subtly sweet,” with a crisp citrus flavor and a creamier texture. While the flavor and color may be lighter, though, the Latin American bean has 10 more milligrams of caffeine.
At the end of the day, Starbucks president of US retail, Kris Engskov, explains, “Our partners are so passionate about their craft and now they get to help our customers discover and personalize the foundation of the beverage.”
He advises, “We want every experience our customers have with us to be perfect for them, an espresso that is either bold and rich or smooth and bright.”
If we look at the steps Starbucks has made over the past few years to increase exposure and entice new customers—most notably the new Roastery and Reserve Bars—the introduction of a blonde espresso seems right on par with the strategy.