Starbucks, Olive Oil & Longevity

We have always been happy to share news about coffee’s trend setters, whether it is good or not so flattering. Sometimes quite  unflattering. Click the image above to go to the current Starbucks press release for this new, unusual product. Gideon Lewis-Kraus makes a pretty compelling case that while the backstory is interesting this new product is not worth trying:

A banner outside the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Milan’s city center advertises the chain’s new Oleato line. Photograph by Valentina Za / Reuters / Alamy

Did Starbucks Really Put Olive Oil in Coffee?

The new Starbucks Oleato is terrible. But somehow there’s pleasure to be had in its existence.

As corporate legend has it, the concept of Starbucks was inspired by a visit that Howard Schultz paid to Milan in 1983. At the time, Schultz was the director of operations and marketing for a local Seattle chain with fewer than a dozen outposts; the stores, the first of which opened in 1971, sold whole beans, leaf teas, and spices in bulk. In Milan for a trade show, Schultz found himself enchanted by the city’s espresso bars. The official version of the story, on the company’s Web site, continues, “The baristas were artists, respected for their craft. And the bars themselves served as a ‘third place’ for customers—welcoming, energetic gathering spaces between home and work that became part of people’s daily routine.” He pitched the company’s leaders upon his return, and, in 1984, the first Starbucks Caffè Latte was poured at an experimental counter in a corner of one of the chain’s locations. The next year, Schultz left the company to open his own chain, called Il Giornale, in homage to one of the Milanese dailies. In 1987, Schultz bought the rights to the Starbucks name, along with six stores. Today, the company has thirty-six thousand locations in eighty countries.

Over the last two decades, Starbucks has become one of the paradigmatic cases of poor succession planning in American business. Schultz first retired as chief executive in 2000, only to return in 2008 to steward the company through the financial crisis; he purged top executives, closed hundreds of underperforming stores, laid off thousands of employees, and led an aggressive expansion effort in China. In 2017, he stepped down again, only to return last year as interim C.E.O. (He’s made it clear in the past three Presidential-election cycles that his personal preference would be to serve not as a company’s chief executive but as the nation’s.) In this most recent stint, he has played the role of the charismatic, visionary entrepreneur drafted once more against his will to rescue the soul of the company from mere accountants. As he put it in a recent interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, “There’s a balance, and it’s fragile, that has to be maintained between pushing for self-renewal and reinvention and maintaining the core values of the company, and that’s where companies, and that is where Starbucks, in the past, has lost its way—where it has tilted too much to a place where it’s been too financially oriented, too financially skewed, too focussed on the stock price, and the only way forward for Starbucks is to follow the hearts and minds of our people.” The rhetorical grandiosity suggested he were salvaging a company like Boeing, another troubled colossus of Seattle origin, but cost-cutting under his predecessor hadn’t made Grande Toasted White Chocolate Mochas fall from the sky. That said, he did end the company’s expensive campaign of stock buybacks, and seemed committed to the reinvestment of that capital into the future of Starbucks and its employees.

Read the whole essay here.

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