Starbucks adding energy drinks, factory jobs

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Starbucks Corp is expanding into the fast-growing energy drink category and plans to add manufacturing jobs in the United States, the world's biggest coffee chain said on Wednesday.

Starbucks' new line of Refreshers beverages targets the $8 billion U.S. energy drink market that includes products such as Red Bull and Rockstar.

The fruit-flavored drinks are made with a virtually flavorless extract of green, unroasted coffee, and pack less caffeine kick than coffee drinks made from roasted beans.

The Refreshers debut comes as the 40-year-old company is reporting record revenue and profits.

Starbucks plans to extend that run by introducing new products that will put it one step ahead of rivals like Dunkin' Donuts Group Inc and McDonald's Corp. It also seeks to sell more products outside the four walls of its cafes.

We're just getting started, Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead said at its annual shareholder meeting in Seattle.

Starbucks - which has started a fund to spur job creation - also announced plans to create about 150 jobs by investing nearly $180 million to build a new factory in Augusta, Georgia, and to expand an existing roasting plant in Sandy Run, South Carolina, to add packaging capability.

Starbucks said the new Augusta plant will be Starbucks' first company-owned and -operated facility to produce its VIA instant coffee and ingredients for Frappuccino.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz said Starbucks decided to make the investment in the United States, even though it could have saved money by doing it in low-cost overseas markets.

Delivering long-term shareholder value is essential. But today's increasingly complex world requires companies - including Starbucks - to hold ourselves to higher standards, Schultz said.

Starbucks resumed profit growth in 2010 after a two-year restructuring that involved slashing costs and closing nearly 1,000 cafes around the world.

Starbucks shares rose 0.14 percent to close at $53.81 on Nasdaq. The stock has jumped more than 50 percent over the last year and is trading at all-time highs.

MULTI-PRONGED PLAN

Earlier this month Starbucks announced plans to roll out its own single-cup home brewer called Verismo, ending more than a year of speculation that it would jump into the $8 billion global business with both feet.

Executives on Wednesday introduced shareholders to the espresso and latte maker, which will be in stores in time for the winter holidays.

Analysts expect the machine to compete with Nestle's Nespresso machine, the worldwide leader, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc's Keurig brewers, which dominate in the U.S. market.

Single-serve brewers, which can range from $50-$800, make fresh cups of coffee, or even barista-worthy espresso drinks, in seconds. The premium single-serve coffee category is small compared with the overall premium coffee category, but is growing rapidly.

Starbucks also is expanding a test of beer and wine sales in its cafes this year and making its biggest push yet into the $50 billion health food sector.

It opened the first store in its new Evolution Fresh juice bar chain near Seattle on Monday. That store serves fresh fruit and vegetable juices as well as meals.

(Reporting By Lisa Baertlein; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Richard Chang)

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