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Retailers, consumers and prices

Starbucks testing green coffee drinks

August 4, 2010

refreshersStarbucks will begin testing summer drinks with a base of green, unroasted coffee in San Diego today as it works on new products to drive sales and put more distance between itself and rivals like McDonald’s — which is rolling out the kinds of drinks that Starbucks built its business on.

The drinks, called “Refreshers,” will be offered in cool lime and very berry hibiscus flavors. They are made with fruit and are low in calories and caffeine, said Julie Felss Masino, Starbucks’ vice president of global beverage. 

Ingredients include a “flavor neutral” powdered extract made from unroasted green coffee and formulated to have less of a caffeine kick than regular coffee, Felss Masino said.

“It’s coffee that doesn’t taste like coffee,” she said, noting that the test is a response to customer requests for more “overtly” thirst-quenching drinks.  

Starbucks has been focused on introducing new drinks like Via instant coffee and create-your-own Frappuccino after a massive restructuring that resulted in the closure of roughly 900 cafes around the globe.  Both new drinks efforts have helped to boost sales amid a still weak U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s has built a profitable new beverage business based on Starbucks’ core products, including espresso-based drinks, fruit smoothies and frappes. 

The green coffee-based drinks are a first for Starbucks. While some companies are marketing green coffee on the Internet as a weight-loss aid, the world’s biggest coffee chain does not promote Refreshers to shed pounds, representatives said. 

A “tall”, 12-ounce serving of the lime Refresher has 50 calories, while the similarly sized hibiscus drink has 70 calories. The 12-ounce drinks will be sold at 113 company-operated cafes around San Diego at prices ranging from $2.50 to $2.95. 

Both versions are packed with Vitamin C and have fewer than 15 milligrams of caffeine. That’s less caffeine than a cup of green tea and significantly less than the 260 milligrams in a 12-ounce brewed coffee, Starbucks said. 
(Photo provided by Starbucks)

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