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June 20, 2024

Starbucks Launches Controversial New Olive Oil-Infused Oleato Drink Nationwide

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Jan 30, 2024

Starbucks has launched its controversial new olive oil-infused Oleato beverages across all stores in the US and Canada. The coffee giant is moving forward with a nationwide rollout despite extremely polarizing reactions during testing.

What is Oleato?

Oleato is Starbucks’ new line of coffee and tea beverages infused with Partanna cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. The Oleato menu includes:

  • Oleato Golden Foam Cold Brew – cold brew coffee, Partanna olive oil and vanilla syrup topped with a honey-citrus foam
  • Oleato Golden Foam Iced Shaken Espresso – espresso, milk, Partanna olive oil and vanilla syrup topped with a honey-citrus foam
  • Oleato Almondmilk Honey Flat White – steamed almond milk, blonde espresso roast and Partanna olive oil blended with honey
  • Oleato Golden Turmeric Tea – steamed milk, Partanna olive oil, turmeric and ginger blended with honey

The oil is meant to provide a “velvety-smooth, buttery flavor” that enhances the taste of coffee and tea. Prices range from $5-$6 per drink.

Mixed Reactions During Testing

Starbucks tested the Oleato line in select regions of the Pacific Northwest and California last year. Reactions on social media were intensely divided.

Some praised the unexpected flavors and creaminess from the olive oil, calling them delicious and unique. Others slammed the odd taste combinations and oily mouthfeel, with many dubbing Oleato a “laxative” drink.

Rating Percent of Reviews*
Very Positive 15%
Somewhat Positive 15%
Neutral 15%
Somewhat Negative 20%
Very Negative 35%

\ Based on analysis of 300 online reviews*

Negative sentiment swelled when some customers reported gastrointestinal issues after drinking Oleato beverages. It is unclear whether the oil or other ingredients were to blame.

Regardless, CEO Howard Schultz is doubling down on the polarizing product line. He claims customers will develop a taste for olive oil over time.

Starbucks Partners with Italian Olive Oil Company

To create Oleato, Starbucks partnered with Partanna, a family-owned premium olive oil company in Sicily, Italy. According to Starbucks, Partanna harvests olives within 12 hours of pressing to maximize flavor and health benefits.

Starbucks boasts that Partanna olive oil contains high levels of heart-healthy polyphenols and monounsaturated fats compared to other vegetable oils. However, nutritionists note that a 16 oz drink still packs roughly 200 calories with 25 grams of fat.

Nationwide Launch Faces Uphill Battle

Despite online backlash, Starbucks is launching Oleato drinks across all US stores this week. Additional menu items, including plant-based milk alternatives, will roll out through 2024.

Canada will offer a smaller Oleato selection, including the Golden Foam Cold Brew and Almondmilk Honey Flat White.

Starbucks clearly hopes to replicate the success of its Pumpkin Spice Latte, which initially received mixed reviews but eventually became a seasonal best-seller.

However, the year-round Oleato lineup faces tough odds for nationwide adoption. Most US consumers are unaccustomed to swirling olive oil in their coffee or tea. Starbucks will need to overcome hesitation from many who find the concept unappetizing.

Beverage analysts also warn that a barrage of negative reactions could sink Oleato entirely. Social media will greatly influence consumer opinions, especially among Gen Z coffee drinkers.

If Oleato fails to gain traction in 2024, Starbucks will likely cut its losses and discontinue the line.

What Happens Next?

In the coming months, the success or failure of Oleato drinks will depend on several factors:

  • Taste Testing Events: Starbucks plans to offer extensive in-store sampling opportunities so customers can try Oleato risk-free before purchasing. However, preventing long lines during busy mornings will be challenging.

  • Targeted Marketing: Ads will target Millennial and Gen Z consumers who tend to be more adventurous coffee drinkers. Starbucks needs to frame Oleato as exciting and aspirational versus odd or unappetizing.

  • Menu Evolution: If responses remain negative, Starbucks will tweak recipes to improve texture and reduce oiliness. Additional plant-based options could also draw interest.

  • Price Adjustments: Given elevated ingredients costs, the $5-$6 pricing could deter regular orders. Starbucks may run promotions like a $1 olive oil shot add-on to make Oleato more affordable.

While Schultz remains adamant that olive oil coffee is the next big thing, consumers will decide if Oleato becomes Starbucks’ next pumpkin spice phenomenon or a short-lived menu flop. The nationwide launch marks just the first battle in what could be a prolonged war for America’s olive oil latte loyalty.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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