The Lane Train

News and Pop Culture for the Blog Generation

Starbucks Has Me All Confused With Cafe Vivanno

Posted by thelanetrain on July 15, 2008

First, they say they’re closing about 600 stores because they’re not performing well.  Fine, that’s totally understandable.  So why are they now going into the protein shake industry?

Today, Starbucks unveiled its new Cafe Vivanno, which, SURPRISE, contains no actual coffee.  Instead, Cafe Vivanno is a line of two (so really, hardly a line) “nourishing blends” that contain fruit and some sort of other healthyish additives.  I think they might have green tea shots, or protein or both.  They come in Orange Mango Banana or Banana Chocolate.  I got a free sample this morning waiting on line for my iced coffee.  They’re not bad, but probably not worth the four and a half dollars that Starbucks will undoubtedbly be charging for it.

Plus I totally got a sneak behind the counter at how they make one.  The barista told me it comes “pre-mixed and ready to make, except for the bananas which are fresh”.  Nice, but what exactly is the pre-mix?  It’s really this, which I like because Naked is known for making 100% juice (and not sugar water), but a closer look at the base reveals that it contains 27g of sugar in an 8 ounce serving.  Combine that with the banana and the fact that NOBODY goes to Starbucks to get an 8 ounce drink, and you’re serving up a “healthy shake” chock full of over 50g of sugar a glass (about 1/5 of your daily recommended value).

Starbucks, you’re in trouble.  Just stick to what you do best: making strong coffee drinks for the white collar workers and frappucinos for moms and college girls.  Thanks.

UPDATE 7/17: The NYC cost of a Vivanno is $3.95, not the $4.50 I predicted above.  Only comes in one size though, so at least you don’t have to fuss around with tall, grande, and venti.

(Image via Business Week)


9 Responses to “Starbucks Has Me All Confused With Cafe Vivanno”

  1. Fort Knox Jolie Pitt said

    love the reasoning here…
    1-you close stores b/c theyre not making money, theyre not making money b/c theyre not selling enough drinks, you sell more drinks by introducing a new product to get more costumers into the store
    2-are you actually SURPRISEd a smoothie doesnt have coffee in it? i dont know of many that do
    3- if you dont wanna pay 4.50 for a smoothie move out of new york
    4- starbucks is one of the wealthiest corporations with the strongest brnad loyalty and most universally appreciated product in america. id hardly say theyre in trouble
    …get your shit straight

  2. thelanetrain said

    Let’s go through the points real fast before you bludgeon me to death with your sarcasm:
    1) Starbucks is closing because of over-expansion and a failing economy. The fact that they need to close 600 stores (about 10% of their US market) is alarming, especially as a wealthy corporation with a “universally appreciated product” and strong “BRAND loyalty” (check your spelling, please). The new product is not something Starbucks should be investing in right now, in my opinion. Their strength lies in the coffee, coffee-food, and music markets. It is not in their best interest to introduce a brand new product which most loyal customers find to be overpriced and not very tasty anyway.

    2) You actually win here. The product is simply called “Vivanno”, no Cafe added. A coffee smoothie would be gross in concept.

    3) You must be from out of town, or you have no concept of pricing and how it works. A $4.50 smoothie is a small price to pay to be able to live in what is arguably the greatest city in the world. Besides, Starbucks is not the only smoothie purveyor, as New York has hundreds of other chains and individual stores that sell smoothies. Plus, smoothies made with yogurt and milk are naturally going to be more expensive anyway since the price for milk has increased sharply this past quarter, and since they’re using Naked juice, a more expensive vendor, for their smoothies, this would naturally increase the price of the drink. You can find smoothies in New York for less than $4.50, but the product quality will decrease. It also depends on the stores rents as well.

    4) Starbucks may be wealthy and have a huge loyalty, but as stated in point 1, they must be in trouble if they’re decreasing their US presence by 10%, and had to have that mandatory 3 hour Barista training back in February, which obviously had no effect considering they had to close 600 stores anyway. Plus, Starbucks is facing HUGE competition from McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts, both of which ALSO have tremendous customer loyalty, high brand recognition, and most importantly, lower prices for their products. Furthermore, a recent study showed that in a blind taste test, consumers actually like McDonald’s coffee better than Starbucks, shocking because Starbucks is touted so much for its superior quality. So is it really smart to say that Starbucks is HARDLY in trouble?

    Sorry, are those facts straighter for you?

  3. Fort Knox Jolie Pitt said

    i read the businessweek article too so give me some credit before you get all holier-than-thou on me with your copious amounts of starbucks related knowledge. but delving back in…
    1- seriously? starbucks probably has 600 locations in NYC alone and is hardly a US-exclusive brand at this point.
    3- ive spent plenty of time in ny and am personally a jamba juice man. also im pretty sure you pay more than a .50 smoothie premium to live in ‘the greatest city in the world’ (zurich, btw, scores 8 points better in a recent survey and i bet their smoothies dont cost 4.50), just consult your last bar tab, cab fare, or rent rate.
    4-mickey D’s does some good joe, but i feel like they’ll have trouble scratching my itch for a venti iced soy caramel macchiatto. market share preserved!

    …i wouldnt reccomend condescending your readers

  4. thelanetrain said

    1) There is an abundance of Starbucks in New York. In fact, there are three within three blocks of my office. But a lot of white collar workers need coffee. You probably also read that Starbucks has not announced which stores they’ll be closing yet. You probably also read that the stores are are only in the US, so in terms of their failure, it’s clearly more focused on their domestic efforts. I don’t know much about their economic status internationally, although I hear they do fairly well in Britain. For further reading on international failtues, I highly recommend reading about their failed venture in Israel

    3) Yes, there is much more than a 50 cent smoothie premium to live here. Jamba Juice is very good, sometimes too pricey for my taste. That’s why when I’m really thirsty, I drink water. I buy in bulk and keep a ton of bottled water in the fridge, and refill my water bottle every day. And you’re right, cab fares and rents are outrageous, but consider this: Everywhere I go is walkable or accessible by public transit. New York is fortunate to be able to have the country’s premier public transportation infrastructure. The fact that I don’t have to worry about gas, parking, or cars is a godsend.

    4) McDonald’s will have an uphill battle to climb in terms of cornering the espresso drinks market. That’s why they should really just stick with regular and iced coffees, because their consumers have elicited a positive response. Dunkin’ Donuts is the main latte rival. I don’t think that their lattes and macchiattos are as tasty as Starbucks’, but at least they know what they’re doing and can offer a similar product for considerably less. Now, if they were only as ubiquitous as Starbucks (i.e. not on every other streetcorner, but on every street corner), they’d really be giving them a true run for their money. They’ve really shown no signs of slowing down in terms of selling their products and opening new stores.

    As always, I welcome you and other commenters to agree or disagree with what I have to say, but when you start using phrases like “get your shit straight” and attempt to undermine my articles, you forfeit your right to be free of condescending and snarky comments. Please refer to the policy page for further questions. Your last reply, in all fairness, was much more tolerable.

  5. Aaron Joshua B. said

    I find it amusing that just because you’ve read an article you’re now an expert on the subject. A bit too condescending in my opinion…

    Lane Train – one bit of business advice – a company’s growth is important to its success. Starbucks started out as just coffee. Now, as you mention, they play in the music field too. Dunkin Donuts (hmm…I wonder what they originally sold… ) is now huge in lattes, as you mentioned. Point is, you need to step into new fields, that may seem far-fetched, in order to make money. Obviously what starbucks is currently doing isn’t working, so going into Smoothies may make sense.

    No need to criticize someone because of your own lack of understanding of the topic. Relax on Jolie, obviously an educated poster.

  6. thelanetrain said


    The biggest point I was trying to understand is why a company would contract and expand at the same time. I do not consider myself a Starbucks or business expert just by reading one article, but logistically, if a company wants to shutter a large chunk of its stores, I dont think it would make sense for them to launch a brand new product line, especially when their existing product line incredibly diverse. After all, one could argue that the overexpansion of Starbucks was the ultimate cause of its downsizing to begin with.

    Perhaps after time the smoothies will take off, but its disappointing for Starbucks now because the Vivanno has not been embraced by consumers, at least in the short run. Starbucks has always been known for being an innovator (the Frappuccino being one of the most important beverage innovations of the 90s), so I’m sure they’ll figure something out (as Jolie hinted at). Personally, I just don’t think the Vivanno was the smartest thing for them to launch at this very moment.

    Finally, on the subject of ettiquette, I was a little hard and condescending on Jolie, but I was also taken aback at the tone raised in his original comment and felt compelled to sharply disagree. I agree with you though, he knows his stuff.

  7. maximz2005 said

    Yeah, I know, it’s outrageous. The Orange Mango Banana one was actually a little tasty, well, compared to the the Banana Chocolate. That was disgusting! And for that price (in my case it was $3.75 not $4.50, for some reason)??? Starbucks is failing a little now, thus they’re getting into other beverage categories, such as smoothies and juices, to try and make money. But it’s hard to compete with Jamba Juice and the likes, especially while charging $4 for a disgusting smoothie.


  8. Aaron Joshua B. said

    Lane Train – I admire your style and acceptance of Fort Knox Jolie Pitt’s opinions.

    Keep up the great work!!

  9. Mr Black said

    “You know what, first of all who cares if some stores are closing. Most of those 600 stores don’t take the time to train their Barista’s properly anyway so you end up with a poorly made drink. When I worked for the company I cared and the end result was people requesting me to make their drinks.”

    Point two is this when I think of coffee or latte I don’t think hey I’ll go to McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts, I think Starbucks. McDonald’s has about 80 plus items none of which are decent or even worth the price. Almost everything there is pre-made and sent to them and when I want a donut I buy from Dunkin but not their coffee drinks.
    Starbucks is known for coffee and pastry and specialty drinks. Frappachinos included. The reason behind people preferring McDonald’s coffee over Starbucks is because Starbucks makes coffee to taste the proper way which means its stronger than normal.
    Most people I know who came through the line at the Starbuck’s I worked at always said that its too strong. No you make it at home not properly, probably never clean out the coffee maker and buy some cheap coffee like Maxwell House or Folgers and never do the recommended way of brewing so after years of this those people think Starbucks is too strong or simply tastes terrible.
    McDonald’s coffee watered down, hotter than its supposed to be, and is not made with purified water but tap and although it says Premium Roast its actually John Conti and it hasn’t changed.
    Even the people I work with now when you pour the coffee they have made in the morning its light colored brown water.
    And coffee has over 900 different complexities and under flavors which is 300 more than wine, plus I would point out that after I have left Starbucks I am used to the coffee they make and only buy their brand beans and make it properly to specs.
    I can’t drink the other stuff because it flat out is terrible.
    McDonald’s food shouldn’t be classified as food but rather incredibly processed life like imitation food. When you offer 80 items or more you do make money simply because now you appeal to a larger base consumer but when you specialize in nothing anymore and offer substandard service and quality regardless of your capital base a year I don’t go there and haven’t for the past several years.
    I worked with guy who worked for McDonald’s back in the 60’s and he told me how they used to get there early and peal and slice real potatoes and hand pat out real meat which he told me how they had thicker patties back then. And had to mix the shake mix by hand adding real ice cream and whatnot. He told me today McDonald’s is horrible compared to what they used to taste like. Their Ice Coffee offering sucks, because its the same coffee they use for their hot brew. Some coffee’s like Terrazza is designed for ice coffee and is not very good as hot brewed, furthermore they also don’t make it double strength which I asked a employee who came to our store and bought coffee from us. Anyone knows that ice coffee has to made double strength because the ice melts over time while it is chilled and weakens the taste.

    Anyway that is my two cents and by the if New York is the greatest city in world why should anyone in their right mind pay 1200 dollars a month for 600 square feet apartment. I pay 378 a month for my 600 square foot apartment.

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