Starbucks Jumping into the Soda Ring with Coke and Pepsi?

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Starbucks is testing sodas, but probably not in a market near you.

Starbucks may not be known just for its coffee concoctions much longer, if test stores in the Atlanta and Austin markets are any indication.

Spiced root beer, ginger ale and lemon ale are being handcrafted and offered in the Atlanta and Austin markets, USA Today reported, but the carbonated beverages are being kept under wraps as much as possible for now. The drinks are made by baristas using special carbonation machines and, as one would expect, may be a bit more pricey than your average soda—a tall (12 oz.) is reported to be $2.45, and a venti (20 oz.) $3.45.

The coffee king has expanded into different areas over the years—teas, juices, energy drinks and pastries—to reach segments of the market uninterested in coffee drinks. Nowadays, Starbucks are turning up everywhere, and not necessarily as free-standing stores. It is not unusual to go into a grocery store, for instance, and find a Starbucks welcoming you as you start down the aisles.

But, still, Starbucks is not talking about this latest venture.

"Definitely not something we wanted to talk about," confirmed Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe, in an e-mail to USA Today. "It is a test in a couple markets."

Tests are continuing, the next step presumably being a national rollout. Still, there is probably little need for Coke or Pepsi to worry. Even if Starbucks eventually bottles and sells its new products, it doesn’t seem likely that they would be a threat to the major soft drink makers. But, it makes perfect sense that they would be reaching for their share of the $77 billion carbonated beverage category—the single biggest beverage category in the U.S., according to John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest.

"Starbucks is a smart company and smart to test these products," says Sicher, the USA Today report indicated. "This may help bring in customers who want something other than coffee, especially at some part of the day when many consumers don't drink coffee."

If you are one of those interested in something other than coffee from Starbucks, you still have a bit of a wait if you are not in Atlanta or Austin. But, if reports are correct, consumers could find Starbucks handcrafted sodas in a location near them as early as 2014.

Image: Wikimedia Commons