We all know how successful Starbucks have become as a coffee shop and as a brand. Its worldwide revenue is at $21.1 billion, and $12.38 billion comes from their beverages alone. As of last count, there were 22,557 Starbucks stores around the world and 13,172 of those are in the US. In 2015, a survey discovered that more than 34 million Americans had made a visit to a Starbucks store within the last 30 days.
But they have had their share of failures too. Here are some setbacks that may lead you to wonder just what they were thinking at the time:
1-Mazagran. What the heck is Mazagran, you may be asking yourself. This is actually one of the earliest examples of a Starbucks product that simply didn’t succeed, even though Starbucks partnered with the famous PepsiCo. This was a combination of a soda with coffee sold in bottles, and it was available in convenience stores and groceries way back in 1994.
It was marketed as “sparkling coffee”, if you can believe it. It was cold coffee that was slightly carbonated, and the name was from a French Foreign Legion posted in Algeria. Even during its test-market phase in SoCal, people were divided in their regard for Mazagran. They either loved it or hated it.
There is an upside to this, however. Starbucks was still trying to figure out what to do with Mazagran in 1995, and at the time the newly launched Frappuccino was a surprisingly massive hit. So during a Mazagran discussion, CEO Howard Schultz wondered aloud about selling Frappuccino in bottles. That product is still popular to this day.
2-Tazo Tea Infusions. Back in 2009, Starbucks tried to cash in on the juice and tea trends by offering Tazo Tea Infusions. This was tea infused with juice, and the available flavors included Berry Chai Infusion and Apple Chai infusion.
The thinking was that it would be the perfect pick-me-up drink for the winter. The marketing included focusing on wellness, calm, and anti-aging antioxidants.
It didn’t quite click. As it turned out, coffee lovers weren’t really interested in weird mixes of juice and tea. They didn’t really care for the wellness issue—which is why most folks aren’t bothered by how many calories there are in some of their drinks.
3-Sorbetto. This came out in 2008, and it was an earlier attempt to cash in on the juice trend. Sorbetto was a line of tarty fruit drinks in flavors like berry pink citrus and topical tangy crème.
Again, the Starbucks crowd didn’t quite go for it. It seems that coffee drinkers don’t go to Starbucks for tarty drinks. Even the baristas hated it, because the Sorbetto machine took too long to clean. They said it added an extra 45 minutes to their closing tasks.
4-Chantico. What’s with the name? You have to excuse Starbucks when they use names like “Chantico”. After all, the founders were a writer and two teachers, and they did name their coffee bean business after some minor character in Moby Dick.
This time, Chantico is the name of the Aztec goddess of hearth and fire. It was a chocolate drink. To be more accurate, they mixed whole milk with steamed cocoa butter. According to one Starbucks exec in a CNN interview, it’s like drinking melted truffles.
It didn’t last a year until it was pulled off the Starbucks menu. Was it because the chocolate was a bit too gooey? The fact that it contained 390 calories and 20 grams of fat probably didn’t help matters a bit.
5-Barista Bar Blender. Starbucks sells overpriced coffee; we all know that. So it was logical that when they wanted people to have the Starbucks experience at home, they would offer to sell an overpriced blender.
As it turned out, buying a $100 blender in 2003 didn’t really make much sense to consumers, since it wasn’t much different from a more reasonably priced blender. Starbucks released some recipes with the blender, but then you’d get the same result if you used the cheaper blender.
6-VIA Ready Brewers. Starbucks sells instant coffee, and they’re ridiculously expensive too. But at least they’re easy to prepare. You just boil water and then pour it in a cup with the instant coffee.
So the geniuses at Starbucks thought that they’d sell a “brewer” with the VIA instant coffee. This didn’t brew coffee, though. It just brewed hot water. It looked cheap and had too much plastic, and it just didn’t sell because no one really needed an overpriced water kettle made of plastic.
7-Joe Magazine. This is the embarrassing magazine that Starbucks launched with Time, Inc. It only lasted 3 issues, since there were no celebs on the cover or any interesting articles inside. Instead, the articles were about how bowling can save your life, how a town in California became a film set, and how office cubicles were like coffins. Really fun stuff like that.
Despite these setbacks, there’s no debate about how successful Starbucks is to this day. So as you can see, failure is part of business. The real failure is if you don’t try new things!