Seattle & Hershey, Pa./July 19, 2007/Business Wire -- Starbucks Coffee Company and The Hershey Company announced a development and distribution agreement that will help transform the premium chocolate segment. The companies will create and market a new Starbucks-branded premium chocolate platform in the United States starting this fall.

"Chocolate is the perfect complement to coffee and tea and has long been a part of the coffeehouse experience. We are excited to bring premium chocolate inspired by Starbucks coffee and cafe flavors to Starbucks customers and chocolate lovers," said Gerry Lopez, president, Starbucks Global Consumer Products Group. "Creating a new chocolate platform is another way for us to extend the Starbucks Experience outside of our stores and enhances the coffeehouse experience."

Expert chocolatiers are developing products that translate Starbucks coffeehouse flavors into delicious and distinct chocolate products. The premium platform will combine the highest quality chocolate with Starbucks beverages and cafe flavors, as well as delectable fruits, nuts, herbs and spices. In addition to innovative flavors, this platform will offer new forms and packaging and will be available in a broad range of retail channels such as food, drug and mass merchandise outlets across the United States.

The alliance will draw on the premium expertise of Artisan Confections Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hershey Company. Artisan Confections' unique portfolio consists of some of the world's finest chocolate, including Scharffen Berger and the exquisite truffles of Joseph Schmidt.

"Starbucks is one of the world's leading brands among consumers seeking a unique experience," said Christopher J. Baldwin, senior vice president, president North American Commercial Group, The Hershey Company. "Hershey's chocolate expertise, distribution and selling capabilities combined with the strength of the Starbucks brand will help transform the high-growth premium chocolate segment. Our product development is focused on value-added chocolate and coffee-based products that will provide consumers with a new experience and accelerate growth in this key segment. Customers clearly value the Starbucks brand, and early customer feedback has been outstanding."

"Starbucks and Hershey share a deep dedication to making a positive difference in the communities where they live, work and do business," said Thomas K. Hernquist, senior vice president, global chief growth officer, The Hershey Company. "We look forward to working together with Starbucks to extend our work that is making a meaningful difference in the lives of farm families in the world's cocoa growing regions."

From the July 30, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash