☕️ Starbucks’ big 50th

Wednesday, October 13, 2021 by Robinhood Snacks |
Go oat, brew cold [Adam Hester/The Image Bank via Getty Images]

Go oat, brew cold [Adam Hester/The Image Bank via Getty Images]

Yesterday’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
34,378 (-0.34%)
S&P 500
4,351 (-0.24%)
14,466 (-0.14%)
$55,309 (-3.79%)

Hey Snackers,

Happy International Day for Failure. The holiday, created in Finland, can be celebrated by learning from failures and engaging in new fails. Because winners #fail until they don’t.

Stocks ticked up today, even though the Fed signaled it’s moving toward scaling back its economy-boosting bond buying program, which has infused trillions into the US. The central bank is prepping to start cutting back next month.


A tall vanilla latte walks into a Porsche… Midlife crisis, Starbucks edition. The chain is celebrating its 50th birthday. Today, it's a corporate giant worth $131B that accounts for 40% of US coffeehouses. In honor of the big 50, we're taking a look back:

  • 1971: The first Starbucks opened in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. But it only sold beans and equipment for DIY brews.
  • 1982: Howard Schultz, a sales rep for a Starbs supplier, became Starbucks' marketing chief. He believed it could become “synonymous with great coffee.”
  • 1987: Schultz ended up buying Starbucks, with a vision of turning it into a nationwide café chain inspired by Milan coffee bars.
  • 1991: A year after turning its first profit, Starbs started a national rollout. LA stores were instant hits, with celebs like Paula Abdul rolling up for nonfat lattes.

Cold brew, hot growth... Today Starbucks has over 33K stores around the globe, up from 1K in 1996 and double what it had in 2010. Most Americans had never experienced "café culture" pre-Starbs. Now the US has 37K+ coffeehouses — Starbs accounts for a whopping ~15K. Since going public in 1992, Starbucks stock is up more than 300X, and has doubled over the past five years. It's the world's second most valuable restaurant brand, trailing only McDonald's. Two recent areas of focus:

  • Digital: Starbs has doubled down on store pickup, delivery, and drive-thru. Last quarter, more than 25% of transactions came from app mobile orders, and rewards members accounted for more than half of US sales.
  • Product line up: Since Starbs acquired the Frappuccino in 1994, it's expanded from hot coffee to fancy foods and premium cold bevs, including egg-white bites and Mango Dragonfruit Refreshers.

"Premiumization" could be a frothy growth opp... Starbs has upped the dividend it pays to investors since 2010, when it first intro'd dividends. But to keep growing profit in the face of hot competition, Starbs might need more premiumization — fancy-fied products it can charge extra for. That's why it’s pushing premium treats like Beyond Meat breakfast sammies and Oatly iced coffees. We'll see if the premium push is still working when Starbucks reports earnings this month.


Sounds like a lake monster… the Seattle Kraken. The NHL’s newest hockey team hit the ice last night. This season, the NHL signed a $635M/year broadcast deal with ESPN and Turner — nearly twice the size of last year’s deal with Disney and NBC, but far from the NFL’s recent $10B/year deal. The NHL has high hopes for Seattle’s first team in 97 years. Here’s why:

  • No expense spared: The Kraken raised $2B from billionaires like Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, who along with his ownership group paid $650M — more than 20 of 31 teams are valued — to join the NHL.
  • The Climate Pledge Arena, sponsored by Amazon, cost $1B+ to upgrade and is 100% renewable-energy-powered. Think: more LED video screens than any other arena.
  • Digital approach: The Kraken built a mobile app that gives fans personalized experiences, like finding their favorite wines waiting at their seats.
  • Monster demand: An average Kraken ticket sells for $188 on SeatGeek, double the NHL average.

Streamable hat trick... The Kraken’s debut is part of a bigger e-vamp for the NHL, whose ratings hit a 10-year low last season. The NHL-ESPN partnership is the first major US sports broadcasting deal that’s streaming-focused: It gives the NHL access to 15M ESPN+ subscribers and 43M Hulu subscribers — and an opportunity to boost its fan base.


The future of pro sports is omnichannel… and the NHL doesn’t want to miss out. The NBA and NFL have built ways for fans to consume live sports across multiple platforms. The NBA teamed up with Microsoft to provide AI-customized content across streaming and social platforms, and the NFL partnered with Verizon to deliver 5G-powered stats in the stadium. The Kraken could spearhead the NHL’s plans to engage viewers in stadiums and on streamers.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • TBD: The FDA didn’t approve or reject Moderna’s Covid booster vaccines, because of an apparent lack of data — bad news for Biden’s vax vision.
  • Out: A record 4.3M workers quit their jobs in August, with bar, restaurant, and retail employees leaving in droves.
  • NVM: GM won’t have to cough up the $1.9B it expected to pay for the recall of its Chevy Bolt EVs, after battery supplier LG committed to footing the bill.
  • Tunes: Blackstone invested $1B in music copyrights through UK-based Hipgnosis Songs Fund, which owns music from stars like Neil Young and Rihanna.
  • e-Taco: Charging network ChargeNet will bring quick EV charging to Bay Area Taco Bell restaurants, after a cash infusion from Tritium Partners.
  • Burger: Wendy’s is partnering with Google Cloud to spruce up its drive-thru experience with AI, joining McDonald’s in serving burgers with a side of smart data.


  • September Consumer Price Index drops
  • Earnings expected from JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, BlackRock, Infosys, Progressive, and Delta

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: Starbucks, Chase, Moderna, GM, Microsoft, Disney, and Delta

Correction: In the Snacks newsletter published on Monday, Oct. 11, we misstated that Netflix had not yet set targets to reduce its carbon footprint. The company has set targets, which you can read about here and here. We’ve updated the online version of the newsletter, and regret the error.

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