Starbucks knows how to woo Chinese consumers this holiday season… with cheese?
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Starbucks knows how to woo Chinese consumers this holiday season… with cheese?

In the coffee world, market-leader Starbucks owns the holiday season. That’s more important than you might think – it’s a central part of the company’s branding, and the often-lavish drinks it introduces to celebrate the season generate numerous headlines, increase footfall, and have a reputation for converting passers-by into customers. In America, for example, the company has just released a line-up that includes the “Toasted White Chocolate Mocha” and the “Chestnut Praline Latte”. If you were in China, however, you would be presented with an altogether different festive drink.

Starbucks’ share price has appreciated by 25% in the last 3 months

graph 2211 starbucks

Source: Yahoo Finance

In China, Starbucks is releasing a special, holiday-season only, drink option that it’s betting will tantalise local coffee-fiends – although, in the west at least, no one can tell why. The drink is called the “Snowy Cheese Flavoured Latte.” And here’s how Starbucks describe it: “A dreamy new holiday beverage made with baked cheese flavored sauce blended into classic espresso and topped with light whipped cream, blueberry flavored sprinkles and star-shaped crisps.”

No, you didn’t read that wrong – it really says “baked cheese flavoured sauce blended into classic espresso.” And, according to a comment from a Starbucks rep simply referred to as Hannah, they don’t mean cheesecake. They really do mean baked cheese. What makes this strange – beyond the simple weirdness of putting cheese sauce in espresso – is that China has many unique culinary traditions, but almost none of them involve cheese.

As strange as it might sound, the Chinese reaction to Starbucks’… unusual… new creation will be fascinating to witness. There’s no indication that the drink makes any sense. But something that has stuck out about Starbucks’ expansion into China is the extent to which the company has managed to successfully predict Chinese tastes. Have they done it again? Time will tell. Until it does, we are left with Hannah’s reassurances: “This is a new dreamy holiday beverage customers love, inspired by the magic of Christmas fairy tales to spread cheer during this festive season.”

Dominion holds Starbucks in its Global Trends Luxury and Managed Funds.

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