Can someone smack Starbucks' Howie Schultz out of his 'Unicorn' dream?
OK, this is just one Starbucks aficionado's soapbox opinion and not everyone is going to have the same one. But cripes, can someone smack Starbucks majordomo Howard Schultz and his little sidekick CEO for praising that God-awful sugar-sozzled Unicorn frappuccino as an "Instagrammable success" at a time when the company's sales are down? As his CEO Kevin Johnson put it:
"Last week with the introduction of the Unicorn Frappuccino we had this phenomenal organic, social response to Unicorn that sold out in two to three days and that has set us up very well for this … Frappuccino happy hour season," Johnson said.
Oh, barf. And his baristas are not happy about this hare-brained scheme, either.
Surely the falling sales ought to be a hint to him, no matter what the goosed up effect of that one hideous drink might be, that something isn't quite right. I am a Starbucks customer. I love their product, I get some every day, I admit I've done Starbucks Instagramming, and cripes, I've done Starbucks art! When I see the news reports of Schultz praising the Unicorn and analysts blaming Teavana store sales for the down profits, all I can think is, they are barking up the wrong tree. With Teavana, the problem is not the product; it's the concept. The places don't offer much variety, they don't take Starbucks gold cards (I use mine all the time), and their prices are too high for simple tea. Now they are singing the praises of that Unicorn thing as the answer – meaning more sugary drinks in the pipeline, oh gad. Somebody just tell them no.
Here's my take: sugary drinks are no good for you! They make you fat! They feed cancer cells! They rot your teeth! As the late great diet expert, Dr. Atkins once put it, sugar is anti-food! It does the opposite of what food is supposed to do, which is nourish! And as the world moves toward healthier food, Starbucks decided it wants to be the sugar pusher, the drug dealer taking advantage of the prohibition! Starbucks frappuccinos have more sugar and calories than McDonald's milkshakes! They're fine for athletes and I guess okay for teenagers, which seems to be the market they want to attract, but cripes, why do they keep pushing these things in their stores, which are parts of everyday life for millions of Americans? When I see that Unicorn thing advertised, I just think, cripes, they don't know what I want.
Starbucks needs to be offering more zero-sugar alternatives, their glorious coffee in all its unadorned glory! How about a coffee and half-and-half granita with no sugar? How about a sugar-free stevia-sweetened or no-sweetener-at-all frappuccino? How about that coconut cold brew with no sugar whatsoever? Just unpolluted, un-interfered-with coffee wonderfulness! That's what a lot of us customers really want. We want that coffee uncontaminated by sugar! Just check the Starbucks community bulletin boards for how many customer requests there are for zero-sugar drinks.
Has Howie taken a good look at places that are doing well in the markets, such as Sprouts, which is offering low-priced, super-healthy and fresh alternatives? I am pretty sure it's places like Sprouts, which are groceries that sell quite a bit of prepared food, some of it made from the counters, may be why so many other fast food retailers, such as Subway and apparently Starbucks, too, are having tough times, their market share being eaten. Those places seem to be the wave of the future. I know there are people who view healthy food as something associated with Michelle Obama and her horrible school lunches, but much of the pioneering of this sort of trend is actually done by right-wingers such as Whole Foods' John Mackey. The free market does health food just fine. Michelle Obama's shtick is healthy eating done by socialists.
The goosed up sale spike from the limited-time offer of Starbucks sugary Unicorn drink doesn't look to me like a sustainable trend. Like socialism, it's bad for you even as it seems like a good idea at the time. And like socialism, the Unicorn is an illusion that needs to go away and just won't go away.