November 2014

Food Blogger Crusades to Change Starbucks’ Beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte

Vani Hari is no stranger to the fight for consumer rights. She’s tackled many big-name franchises in the past, with a tremendous amount of success. Perhaps most notably, she convinced Chick-fil-A to ditch corn syrup and challenged Subway for including azodicarbonamide in its bread. Now Hari is gearing up for a showdown with Starbucks over the company’s tremendously popular Pumpkin Spice Latte. With over 2 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes sold to date, the drink is the most popular seasonal beverage in the history of Starbucks.

In her latest post on her popular blog “The Food Babe,” Hari deplores Starbucks’ use of what she classifies as dangerous ingredients, including Caramel Color Level IV, artificial flavors, and ample preservatives. The post, entitled “You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy),” details the company’s unwillingness to disclose specifics about the ingredients used in its drinks, including the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

When Hari first emailed the company asking about the ingredients, she received a response that was light on information. “The Pumpkin Spice Latte is of pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors combined with espresso and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice,” a Starbucks representative responded. When the blogger and activist pressed for more details, the company refused to provide them.

“While we understand that some customers would like to know the nutrition information for their specific customized beverage, unfortunately we are unable to provide this level of detail for every beverage customization request,” the company wrote. “The beverage information that is available on reflects the beverage offerings currently on our menu with the most common customization options.”

Hari was less than pleased. “For a company that prides itself in its transparency, it’s unbelievable to me that this is how they respond to customers who ask for information about what’s in their drinks,” she wrote. Hari maintains that a failure to disclose pertinent information pertaining to ingredients is a problem across the board when it comes to Starbucks. Hari said it doesn’t publish any information about any of the ingredients in its drinks. This includes lattes, Frappuccinos, macchiatos, smoothies, and even kids’ drinks. “If you have a food allergy, their allergen information isn’t available online either,” she added.

Eventually Hari was able to get her hands on the ingredients in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. What she found was disturbing. Each Pumpkin Spice Latte contains two doses of Carmel Color Level IV (which contains ammonia and is considered a carcinogen), over 50 grams of sugar, a number of artificial flavors made from substances like petroleum, and a number of preservatives and sulfites. But the most disturbing part? The Pumpkin Spice Latte doesn’t have a trace of real pumpkin.

Hari urges consumers to let Starbucks know that they don’t want harmful additives in their drinks and to share the post. So, will Hari convince Starbucks to change its ways? Based on her impressive track record, she just might.



Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.

Starbucks Announces 2 New Store Formats

Last week, mega coffee franchise Starbucks announced two new store formats: One geared toward coffee connoisseurs, and one geared toward consumers on the go.

For customers seeking high-quality coffee, Starbucks has announced the debut of the interactive Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle. With the Roastery, Starbucks hopes to double its small-batch roasting capacity and expand its Starbucks Reserve coffee presence from 800 to 1,500 stores worldwide. In a press release, the company explained that visitors to the 15,000-square-foot facility will experience a “union of coffee theater and manufacturing” in a “retail environment devoted to beverage innovation.”

Furthermore, as part of its Roastery plan, Starbucks plans to create at least 100 specialized stores highlighting Starbucks Reserve’s limited availability coffees within the next five years. “We plan to take this super premium experience to cities around the world,” Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in a statement. The move will put Starbucks into direct competition at higher-end coffee retailers frequented by coffee connoisseurs with deep pockets, such as Blue Bottle and Stumptown.

And for customers on the go looking for faster Starbucks service, the company has announced the launch of small-footprint express stores. These express stores will feature a reduced menu with a limited number of beverage and food options in order to facilitate faster, more streamlined service. Starbucks also plans to implement digital-payment platforms in order to increase speed for on-the-go customers. The first express launch is slated to launch in New York City sometime in 2015. The move comes in the wake of an increased demand for speedy service — drive-thru stores account for 40 percent of Starbucks sales in U.S. company-operated stores.

“The evolution of our store experience is a direct reflection of how our customers are interested in both accessibility to the brand as well as speed and convenience,” Starbucks group president Cliff Burrows said in a statement. “Our scale affords us the unique opportunity to bring a flexible portfolio of options rooted in our core commitment to coffee quality.”



Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.

The Marriott Attempts to Target Millennials with New Hotel Chain

Marriot has its eye on a new prize: the millennial. The hotel franchise is attempting to gain a stronger foothold in this lucrative demographic by leveraging a new hotel chain geared toward twenty-somethings. Curated hotels in trendy locations with a sleek, minimalist design characterize the new chain, known as AC Hotel. And, of course, the hotel’s rooms come fully equipped with the technology that millennials value, including free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs that can easily be hooked up to guests’ own devices, such as a smartphone or tablet.

“With the continued rise of the millennial traveler, we saw an opportunity to import this highly successful European brand from overseas with the hope of introducing a more experiential and design led, upper moderate tier lifestyle brand to the U.S.,” Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson explained in a recent statement.

Currently, the chain already has 75 locations throughout Spain, Italy, Portugal, and France. The first AC Hotel in the U.S. opened just this past month in New Orleans, dubbed the AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon. Located on the picturesque and historic Bourbon Street, the hotel boasts a prime location. The hotel is situated in a 19th century cotton exchange building that is now a historic landmark. If there isn’t an AC Hotel at your desired vacation destination, don’t panic just yet. The Marriot plans to open an additional 50 AC Hotels across Latin America and the United States over the course of the next several years.

All in all, the Marriot isn’t the only hotel chain working hard to attract millennials. Hilton Hotels recently launched Canopy, designed to be a trendier option to appeal to millennials, while Best Western recently launched the ultra-high-tech Vibe, designed to be a technology refuge for millennial travelers on the go.



Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.