Starbucks To Go National With Its Calorie Menu, Hopes No One Reads It

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) on Tuesday (June 18) said that it will launch a national (U.S.-only) calorie menu for all its stores (both company-owned and licensed) on June 25.

"Starbucks will post calorie counts to accompany each beverage listed on the menu boards, as well as on tags to accompany food in the bakery case," Starbucks said in a statement. "Each beverage is listed as a standard recipe, though each is fully customizable, such as ordering without whip, choosing a different milk or sugar-free syrup option." In other words, the numbers are only relevant if the food or drink isn't doctored, which a very large percentage of Starbucks drinks are.

Calculating exact calorie counts and figuring out where and how to post them—without taking up too much valuable sales real estate with anti-sales words—is tricky, but given that various cities (such as New York) are already requiring them under local law, the chain had no choice but to figure it out. Having figured it out for New York and other locations, there's little harm in standardizing it nationally.

There's also a practical side of this. The truly health-conscious consumer likely doesn't need a sign to flag the health challenges of a Venti Caffe Mocha in washing down a cheesecake brownie. (For those who must know, that combo will set you back 710 calories and 36 grams of fat, 20 of which are saturated. Bizarrely, the coffee has more calories and just as much fat and saturated fat as the cheesecake.)

And that's the point. Those who would likely be persuaded by some numbers had already made other choices. There's a nice psychological plus to posting these numbers, which is that it sends a signal: "We wouldn't post these numbers if they didn't make us look good. So trust us and there's no need for you to actually read these numbers and do the math."

Consumers who want to eat healthfully will like that the numbers are posted, and many will conveniently avert their eyes so as to not see the figures that are delivering information they would rather not know.

For more:
- See this Bloomberg story
- See the Starbucks statement

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