Starbucks' Refreshing Innovation
Sometimes it is better to be late than never. Starbucks recently announced a new line of energy drinks – Starbucks Refreshers. There are two flavors Cool Lime and Very Berry Hibiscus and instead of copying other energy drinks, and use the same active ingredients as the usual suspects, they instead decided to use something uniquely Starbucks – green coffee extract.
Starbucks Refreshers are coffee drinks that don’t look like or taste like coffee, but provide the caffeine jolt that many of their customers are looking for nonetheless. And as an added bonus, they are coffee drinks that are much lower in calories and fat than many of their traditional hot or iced lattes. Coffee for the lactose intolerant too!
Starbucks has done something else smart, and that is that they have created a self-reinforcing product loop that allows for three different preparations and use cases for the same basic product, all in a single summer product launch:
- A customizable cafe preparation with multiple sizes and fresh fruit
- A canned, chillable pre-mixed portable preparation
- An extremely portable VIA DIY preparation without the water
In addition to being sold in their stores and licensed locations, the can and VIA preparation can be distributed via Starbucks’ existing grocery distribution channels.
Starbucks Refreshers are a great example of taking components of your brand and other organizational assets and leveraging them to create new products that people might not have thought about you creating, but that feel like natural extensions to them instead of a stretch.
Starbucks Refreshers are also a great example of looking at your raw materials in a new way and as a result a new product solution in born.
What might happen if you looked at your raw material inputs in a new way?
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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.
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But they did copy their competitor in the most important aspect: it’s an energy drink which immediately makes them just another price-driven competitor among many vying for a piece of that pie regardless of ingredient. This is why Starbucks is far far away from cracking the energy drink category’s code or breaking into IRI’s Top 10 annual new product pacesetters this year or ever. That threshold is $310 million in the first 10 months and as successful as Starbucks is, they’ve never done that with any of their products. Not even close. So this is far from innovation or in-depth marketing leadership.
Always room for more innovative products and there is nothing wrong with re-inventing or improving anything.
I appreciate Starbucks for what they have accomplished and the way they continue to experiment and grow.
Everyone can benefit from sustainable, responsible, organic and healthier products. It’s not about being the biggest that matters, it’s attempting to being the best that counts because then we all win.