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Starbucks announced yesterday that it is spending $30 million to acquire Evolution Fresh, described as “a California-based premium juice maker,” and said it plans to launch a new health and wellness-driven chain next year.

The coffee retailer said that the new chain will "redefine the super-premium juice category and experience" and offer a "wholesome portfolio" of food and beverages.
KC's View:
It was less than a month ago that the New York Post reported that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was “obsessed” with the notion of juice bars after he visited Liquiteria, a juice bar in New Tork’s East Village, and even “hired veteran juicer Yohana Bencosme away from the dispensary and flew her out to Seattle to train his employees in the ways of fresh juices.” The speculation then was that Starbucks had juice bars on its mind ... and that has proven out. (I was reminded by an MNB reader after we had this story that Schultz has had a long flirtation with this side of the business - he was an early investor in Jamba Juice.)

Expect that this will be a multi-channel play - that in addition to juice and smoothie bars, Starbucks will aggressively try to expand the Evolution Fresh footprint in the packaged goods arena.

This is also a broader strategic move, as Starbucks looks to take a strong position in both food and the health-and-wellness category. They’re moving pieces all over the chessboard, and it is going to be interesting to watch.

Just as a matter of interest ... at the 2012 Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion called “Stomach Wars,” which will look at the changing food culture from a variety of perspectives outside the supermarket industry, endeavoring to find some context for the broader discussion. And one of the panelists will be Luigi Bonini, the new VP of Product Development & Innovation at Starbucks, who was hired away from Yum! Brands, the restaurant company, to propel the new Starbucks strategy.