July 1/Seattle/Wall Street Journal -- Is Starbucks the next soda fountain? The Seattle-based company, which has been pushing to become known for more than just coffee, is experimenting with handcrafted sodas in stores in Atlanta and Austin, Texas.
Its new drinks, made with a carbonation machine, come in such varieties as lemon ale, spiced root beer and ginger ale.
The sodas at one store in Atlanta are priced at $2.45 for a tall, $2.95 for a grande and $3.45 for a venti, according to Larry Miller, an Atlanta-based analyst for RBC Capital Markets, who visited a store selling them. Starbucks said prices vary by market.
Atlanta and Austin began testing the beverages this past Tuesday, following a smaller test in Seattle in April.
The move is the latest in Starbucks's push to move beyond coffee.
In early 2011, the company dropped the words "Starbucks coffee" from its logo. Later that year, Starbucks made another big move beyond coffee when it agreed to buy juice maker Evolution Fresh Inc. for $30 million.
Last year, it agreed to purchase tea retailer Teavana Holdings Inc. for $620 million in cash, its largest acquisition to date. Also last year, Starbucks Corp. bought San Francisco-based Bay Bread, the operator of La Boulange bakeries.
In addition, the company has been expanding its offerings in supermarkets.
Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz has said the new offerings don't mean its core coffee business is struggling.
The new carbonated drinks appear to be an effort to drive customers to the cafes during off-peak hours, especially in the afternoon, Miller said. Starbucks has also been adding chips, salads and sandwiches in an effort to attract more of an afternoon crowd.
A Starbucks spokeswoman said it is too soon to tell if the drinks will be offered beyond Atlanta and Austin and that the company is interested in "understanding how this new product extension fits within our customers' daily routine throughout the day."