Mixing It Up

Give credit to Starbucks (Seattle): the company is ready and willing to diversify. The coffee giant is launching an alcoholic beverage, and continues preliminary efforts to introduce food in its stores.

With Jim Beam Brands Co., a unit of Fortune Brands (Lincolnshire, Ill.), the company is introducing Starbucks Coffee Liqueur, a mixable liqueur that is the first to feature 100% Starbucks coffee. While it will be available at licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars and retail outlets, the new product will not be sold in Starbucks' retail stores.

The company stores will have plenty of other enticements, however, if a recent interview with Starbucks CEO designate Jim Donald is any indication. Speaking with The Motley Fool Radio (Alexandria, Va.), Donald mentioned that the company is testing hot breakfast and lunch sandwiches in 80 stores in the Seattle area. While he admits the food items have a lower profit margin, the opportunity to complement the morning cup of coffee is apparently quite compelling.

Receiving a Jolt

When first introduced in the mid-1980s, Jolt Cola garnered considerable notoriety for its caffeine content and deservedly so. However, its forthcoming re-launch innovates in a different way.

Wet Planet (Chicago) is re-launching the “exhilarating” soda in a re-sealable 23.5oz. aluminum container, which it claims to be the industry's first. Coca-Cola reportedly is testing a similar concept in select U.S. markets, but Wet Planet's “Jolt Battery Bottle” could well be the first that is available nationally.

Among the promised benefits of the aluminum can are guaranteed freshness, superior carbonation retention and shelflife, quick chilling, plus the obvious ability for the consumer to drink the beverage at his own pace.

From the Heart

According to the Centers for Disease Control (Atlanta) National Center for Health Statistics, some 105 million American adults have higher total blood cholesterol levels than recommended, leaving many at serious risk of heart disease, already the nation's leading cause of death.

Realizing this, and considering the recent fascination with whole grains, Quaker (Chicago) has introduced Take Heart Instant Oatmeal. Designed for heart health, the product promises 50% more soluble fiber from whole grain oats to help lower cholesterol, as well as enough potassium to lower the risk of high blood pressure. Already considered one of the more-healthful items in the cereal category, oatmeal is the only whole grain food recognized by the FDA to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

A similar move may be afoot in the beverage category. Rumor has it that Coca-Cola (Atlanta) is considering a cholesterol-reducing drink. In the U.K., the company has applied to add phytosterol to its range of fruit juices.

Label-ous Behavior

As concerns about obesity and overall health issues spread around the world, two companies have announced sweeping changes to their nutritional labeling efforts in the U.K.

Nestle (Vevey, Switzerland) is overhauling the packaging on its U.K. products to “help guide consumers in their understanding of nutritional content.” Applying to such products as pasta, coffee, confectionery, yogurts and cereals, the new labeling will include calories per serving on the front of the pack; the back of the package will list guideline daily amounts (GDA) of calories and fat per serving, nutritional information per serving and per 100g, facts relating to the specific ingredients in the product, and the role a serving of the product can play as part of a balanced diet.

Kellogg's (Battle Creek, Mich.), meanwhile, is adding an “easy-to-read” nutritional counter on all of its packages. It displays information based on GDA amounts. The nutritional counter along the top of all Kellogg's cereals will indicate total amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, salt, calcium and iron.