Nearly one year after the debut of Starbucks’ olive oil-infused coffee in Italy, the company has extended its Oleato line to all stores in the United States.
The expansion of former chief executive Howard Schultz’s brainchild across its largest market – Starbucks has an estimated 15,873 stores in the U.S., 44 percent of its total globally – comes as the company prepares to release its fiscal first-quarter earnings report on Tuesday.
Analysts expect the company’s results from October through December 2023 to fall short of expectations as sales grew slower than the same quarter last year, and the number of visitors fell by 2.1 percent.See Also:In Ice Cream, Olive Oil Adds Health Benefits Without Compromising Flavor
The anticipation of disappointing earnings comes after the company consistently met expectations over the previous three quarters, coinciding with the release of the Oleato brand in nine countries across Europe, North America and Asia.
One month after Oleato made its February 2023 debut in Milan, Starbucks launched the range of five olive oil-infused coffee beverages across 550 locations in Chicago, New York City and Seattle.
Despite receiving mixed customer reviews – ranging from modest praise to complaints of indigestion – the company pushed ahead with a further U.S. expansion before finally releasing Oleato at all U.S. stores on Tuesday.
Inspired by a trip to Sicily, where Schultz was introduced to the custom of drinking a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil before his morning coffee, the man behind the world’s most valuable restaurant brand hoped the creation of five olive oil-infused coffee beverages would help the company stand out.
Oleato is brewed with a spoonful of Partanna Nocelara del Belice extra virgin olive oil from the award-winning Sicilian producer Oleificio Asaro dal 1916. After the olive oil is produced in the Belice Valley, Starbucks takes possession and ships it to distribution centers worldwide.
“[The Starbucks team] tasted oils from many other varieties and places,” Tommaso Asaro, Oleificio Asaro dal 1916’s chief executive, told Olive Oil Times in a September 2023 interview.
“We compared the products, and there were definitely many great oils. Nocellara has a specific taste profile and color and only grows in one area,” he said. “With its smooth and nutty flavor, not so bitter, and little aftertaste, it was the perfect balance.”
“The idea was, you don’t want to see the olive oil, but you want to taste and get the benefits of it,” Asaro added.
According to Asaro, Oleato was already being served (as of September 2023) in 4,000 Starbucks in the United States, Italy, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Japan, with plans to expand to China.
While not all customers are convinced about the beverage, producers are optimistic that Starbucks will become a global ambassador for extra virgin olive oil, with the company already serving as a retail outlet for the Partanna brand.
“Mixing coffee and olive oil is a truly challenging innovation,” Anna Cane, president of the olive oil group of the Italian Association of the Edible Oil Industry (Assitol), told Olive Oil Times in a March 2023 interview. “Extra virgin olive oil is an extraordinary product. Giving it value through coffee could relaunch its image, mostly among the younger generations.”