Starbucks Presses into the Fat Food Business

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Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) has been extraordinarily successful recently, and that is reflected in the firm’s share price, which has risen more than 20% in the past year. CEO and founder Howard Schultz is so sure of the company’s bright future that he recently announced the coffee firm would add about 1,500 new “cafes” in the United States over the next five years. The company’s success is not only due to its move into instant coffee, the launch of its own Verismo coffee machine and the free WiFi it offers in its stores. Starbucks has pressed into the fatty, high-calorie food business. Some of its drinks and meals contain enough calories to match those sold by other fast-food companies, such as McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD). Americans love high-calorie and fatty food, and Starbucks has been smart enough to deliver.

Starbucks publishes it menu, both online and in stores, with data about calories, total fat and sodium. There is no way to completely match Starbucks food and drink calories directly with McDonald’s because the larger chain has a more extensive menu. But a few comparisons show that Starbucks sells plenty of calorie-rich food and drinks.

The Starbucks Hot Chocolate Venti, which is the largest size in which the drink comes, has 460 calories, which compares to a McDonald’s vanilla milkshake, which has 530. The Starbucks Caffee Mocha Venti has 410 calories, compared to the McDonald’s large McCafé Peppermint Mocha, which has 380.

Starbucks’ food is also as calorie rich as McDonald’s in many cases. A Blueberry Scone bar has 460 calories. An Egg McMuffin has 300. A Starbucks Sausage & Cheddar sandwich has 500 calories. A Big Mac has 520. In a comparison of chicken sandwiches, Starbucks Chicken Santa Fe has 400 calories, while the McDonald’s Chicken Sandwich has 420.

McDonald’s is often criticized for the huge number of calories in its offerings. Starbucks should be as well. It is not terribly hard to get a meal at Starbucks that has close to 1,000 calories.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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