Welcome to this week’s Coffee News Roundup.
Let’s round up the news.
‘Starbucks Weighs Selling Its UK Operations, Times Reports’ - via Bloomberg
Starbucks has tasked its advisers with assessing interest in its UK operations as the company “evaluate[s] strategic options” for its international business, according to reports this week.
As the UK struggles with high inflation and a cost of living crisis, it makes sense that perceived luxuries such as coffee could suffer—it’s already happening in the US, where Starbucks and Dunkin have both seen drops in traffic this year.
Starbucks has hired the investment bank Houlihan Lokey to explore its options in the UK, where it has nearly 300 company-owned stores and a further 700 run by licensees. The deal “could attract interest from a specialist franchising group or a private equity company,” according to the Financial Times (paywalled).
The company’s UK business, which employs around 4,000 people, had sales of £328 million for the last fiscal year, returning to profit after posting a £41 million loss the year before. The FT quotes Starbucks’ own accounts as describing a difficult trading environment, “contending with operating cost increases at the same time that competition intensifies.”
Asked for comment, Starbucks told Bloomberg that it “is not in a formal sale process for the company’s UK business” and asserted to CNN that it wants to stay in the region.
‘US Coffee Championship Preliminaries Return’ - via Global Coffee Report
Dates and host cities for the 2023 US Coffee Championships preliminary rounds have been announced by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), the first time in two years that preliminaries for all six events have been held across the country.
27 different competitions for Barista, Brewers Cup, Coffee in Good Spirits, Cup Tasters, Latte Art, and Roasters championships will begin at the end of August and span the next few months, spread across 14 events in 12 different cities.
“After missing two years of preliminary events due to the pandemic, we are so excited to see these member-driven events returning to coffee communities around the country,” US Competition Committee Chair Lauren Lathrop said.
Competitor registration hasn’t opened yet, but the US Coffee Championships website will have all the details and updates.
‘Russia Faces Retail Shortages of Coffee and Tea’ - via STiR Coffee & Tea
Imagine your country just… running out of coffee. You finish your bag of beans and there’s no way to replace it because there’s no coffee available.
Obviously this is a consequence of the sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, but it’s still quite astonishing to think about a country of 145 million people potentially losing access to what we all consider to be a staple of modern life.
Although the sanctions imposed on Russia don’t include food imports, the coffee and tea shortages are “due to bottlenecks in logistics as well as other factors like exchange rate volatility, the disappearance of trade finance and the block on international transfers via the SWIFT banking network.”
Scheduled imports of tea and coffee declined 50% during March and April, according to the general director of the Russian Association of Tea and Coffee Producers, who expects increased supply issues in the coming months as existing stockpiles are exhausted.
Russian companies are now looking to alternative import routes, such as through its far eastern port at Vladivostok and via China, but the capacity of these routes remain limited and attempts to find new transport corridors will take time to implement.
Until then, supplies will continue to dwindle.
The Week in Coffee Unionizing
- Starbucks Workers United reached a milestone this week, with the University Circle location in Cleveland becoming the 200th unionized store in just over seven months. 52 of those wins have been unanimous.
- Howard Schultz said that the company will continue to close stores, blaming elected leaders and saying “this is just the beginning. There are going to be many more.” As More Perfect Union points out, while just 3% of Starbucks locations in the US are unionizing, 30% of the stores chosen to close so far have active union campaigns.
- Meanwhile, workers continued to strike at multiple locations across the country, from Philadelphia to Boston to Atlanta. Grievances include shift cuts, refusal to bargain, and retaliation for unionizing. "It's worth it because this is our livelihood. This is how we pay the bills and we deserve a living wage." store supervisor Kat Pfligler told ABC 6 News in Philadelphia.
The Week in Corporate Coffeewashing
An article in Veg News applauds Starbucks “upping its sustainability efforts” by expanding its “plant-based menus globally in an effort to pursue its carbon reduction goals.”
The piece highlights the company’s Japanese menu items that are “part of Starbucks’ wider goal to innovate its menu to help reduce its carbon footprint, along with incorporating more greener store features such as more efficient energy use, using recycled building materials, and reducing in-store waste.”
An example includes giving used coffee grounds to local farmers who use it to help grow matcha green tea, which is then used in Starbucks’ dessert items.
Meanwhile, in 2018 Starbucks was responsible for “emitting 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gases, using 1 billion cubic meters of water and dumping 868 metric kilotons—more than twice the weight of the Empire State Building—of coffee cups and other waste.”
Is Coffee Good For You?
Lots of stories about coffee being good for you (or not) this week, but sadly none of them are addressing anything new—or at least, new to regular readers of the Roundup.
And the Independent, The Hill, New Food Magazine and several others all report on the study we already examined a month ago that found drinking coffee right before shopping makes you buy more—and more impulsively.
So there you have it: subscribe to the Coffee News Roundup and learn about coffee health studies before Axios readers.
What To Read
Until next week, drink good coffee.