Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, is launching a line of olive oil-infused drinks in Italy. Despite facing obstacles as it expands into the Italian food and drinks market, Starbucks is pushing ahead with its Oleato range, which features an iced shaken espresso and a latte with olive oil “steamed with oat milk”. The company plans to bring the selection of hot and iced drinks to stores in Southern California in the US this spring, with the UK, Middle East and Japan set to follow later this year.
Chief executive Howard Schultz said olive oil’s “unexpected, velvety, buttery flavour… enhanced the coffee and lingers beautifully on the palate.” The term “drink olive oil” trended on video-sharing platform TikTok last year, with supporters saying it had anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil is a key part of the Mediterranean diet, associated with countries including Italy, Greece and Spain. Its health benefits can partly be attributed to its monounsaturated fatty acids, which contain vitamins and minerals, and polyphenols, which are micronutrients derived from plants.
Starbucks in Italy
Starbucks currently has around 20 stores in Italy, where the coffee scene is famous for its independent and often family-run cafes. Some Italians called for a boycott of Starbucks when it announced plans to open its first store in the country in 2018. At that time, Mr Schultz said: “We are not coming to teach Italians how to make coffee. We’re coming here with humility and respect, to show what we’ve learned.”
Last year, news that Domino’s Pizza was leaving Italy was celebrated by some social media users. The fast food giant had struggled to win over customers in the birthplace of pizza since launching there in 2015. It faced increasingly stiff competition during the pandemic as local restaurants signed up to food delivery platforms like Deliveroo and Just Eat.
Starbucks’ move into the Italian market with its olive oil-infused drinks is a bold step, as the company is aiming to appeal to Italian tastes while also bringing its own unique twist to traditional coffee culture. The Oleato range is a departure from Starbucks’ usual offerings, which tend to be sweeter and more dessert-like. The company is betting that the combination of coffee and olive oil will be a hit with customers, as it combines the health benefits of olive oil with the caffeine boost of coffee.
The launch of the Oleato range in Italy comes at a time when Starbucks is expanding its presence in Europe and Asia. The company recently announced plans to open 600 new stores in China over the next few years, as it seeks to capitalize on the country’s growing coffee culture. Starbucks is also planning to open its first store in Italy’s northern city of Milan later this year.
Starbucks is facing stiff competition from independent coffee shops in Italy, many of which have been in business for generations. These small businesses are a cornerstone of Italian coffee culture, and they offer a level of personalization and customization that Starbucks may struggle to match. However, the company is banking on the popularity of its brand and the unique flavor of its olive oil-infused drinks to win over Italian coffee drinkers.
The company is hoping that the unique flavor of its Oleato range will appeal to Italian tastes, while also providing a healthy alternative to traditional coffee drinks. The move is a bold step for Starbucks, as it faces stiff competition from independent coffee shops in Italy. However, the company is betting that the combination of coffee and olive oil will be a hit with customers, and it plans to roll out the range in other countries later this year.