Year in Review 2015: Starbucks Innovations

A core philosophy – that customers and partners (employees) are at the center of everything Starbucks does – drives innovation throughout the company and helps shape the future of retail.

Starbucks passion to innovate in 2015 was apparent in the way the company sources its coffee beans, develops new beverages, and creates unique store concepts and digital breakthroughs.

Starbucks Verifies 99 Percent of Coffee Ethically Sourced

Starbucks, which buys hundreds of millions of pounds of coffee in a year, began 2015 with a milestone achievement – 99 percent of Starbucks Coffee supply chain is verified as ethically sourced. Starbucks also announced critical advancements in research and transparency benefiting the entire specialty coffee industry by making a decade of agronomy research available, in collaboration with the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE). This research will benefit more than a million coffee farmers and workers around the world and will have a ripple effect on 25 million people around the globe who rely on coffee for their livelihoods.

In partnership with Conservation International, Starbucks intends to make coffee the first sustainably sourced agricultural product in the world.

Honoring Coffee Artistry and Craft through New Beverages

Every Starbucks espresso beverage starts with the finest ethically sourced coffees from around the world. These high-quality ingredients are showcased in Starbucks® Flat White, which became available in the U.S. and Canada in January 2015. Flat White is an espresso beverage made with two ristretto shots, combined with a thin layer of velvety steamed whole milk and finished with a latte art dot. The Holiday Spice Flat White is available through the season.

In February, Starbucks launched its exclusive subscription delivery of Reserve® Coffee, giving online customers access to super-premium, small-lot coffees roasted at the Reserve® Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle and shipped within 48 hours of roasting.

Innovation continued in March, when Starbucks Cold Brew launched in several regions, and later became available to Starbucks customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Cold Brew is coffee steeped using cool water, while traditional iced coffee is made by brewing hot coffee at double-strength and pouring over ice.

Relevant Store Design

With more than 23,000 stores in nearly 70 countries, Starbucks design and concept innovation leads to special customer experiences. Among the year’s high-profile openings were the company’s first store in Panama, featuring Starbucks Reserve Panama Carmen Estate coffee that is sourced from Panama's Volcán Chiriquí Valley; the Longmen Starbucks located in one of the busiest shopping and fashion districts in Taipei, Taiwan; and London’s Starbucks store at Upper St. Martin’s Lane which offers customers a window into the world of coffee.

In 2015, Starbucks introduced a new store format – its first express store. The store, just across from the New York Stock Exchange at 14 Wall Street, is one of the most streamlined experiences in the company’s portfolio. It’s designed for Starbucks customers who want high-quality beverages and food, know exactly what they’ll order, and want to receive it quickly so they can get on their way. Simply put, this format is the “espresso shot” version of the store experience Starbucks is known for.

In opening the New York express store, Starbucks vice president for Store Design Bill Sleeth said, “This location on Wall Street was intentionally designed to take what’s at the heart of our cafés and distill that for a smaller space. It is the perfect example of how to balance high design, attention to detail and efficiency, while maintaining what is unique to who we are – our coffee and the connection between our customers and partners.”

Creating First-of-Its-Kind Digital Experiences

Starbucks continues to innovate with digital experiences that are valuable for customers either in or out of Starbucks® stores. In May, Starbucks and Spotify® established a multi-year relationship that will link Starbucks 7,000 company-operated stores in the U.S. and 10 million My Starbucks Rewards® loyalty members with Spotify’s 60 million global users to offer a first-of-its-kind music ecosystem. This interconnectivity will give customers access to Starbucks music on Spotify and the ability to influence in-store playlists.

In July, Starbucks unveiled an elevated digital news experience for the Starbucks® Mobile App through an expanded relationship with The New York Times Company. The New York Times top news of the day and a selection of other articles addressing key social, political and economic issues will be available for free via the Starbucks® Mobile App for My Starbucks Rewards® members. Also in July, Starbucks and Lyft, one of the nation’s leading transportation network companies, announced a multi-year deal that will increase value for current customers, attract new customers, reward Lyft drivers and explore a transportation benefit for Starbucks partners.

Starbucks also announced the selection of Chase Commerce Solutions, the global payment processing and merchant acquiring division of JPMorgan Chase & Co., to transition processing of all non-mobile payments and U.S. retail card payment transactions in company-operated stores.

Mobile Order & Pay

Starbucks digital ecosystem achieved significant milestones in 2015 with the launch, nationwide rollout and international pilot of Mobile Order & Pay.

In December 2014, Starbucks® Mobile Order & Pay was tested in Portland, Oregon. Mobile ordering makes it easy for customers to place orders in advance of their visit and pick them up at their chosen Starbucks® store. The feature is seamlessly integrated into the Starbucks Mobile App and My Starbucks Rewards® loyalty program. After a successful response from customers in Portland, Mobile Order & Pay expanded in June 2015 to 3,400 additional stores in the U.S.

Customers nationwide began to use Mobile Order & Pay in September, and internationally in select markets. What could be better than saving time by ordering ahead to pick up at the closest Starbucks? Perhaps having it delivered.


It has been one of the most-asked-for services on the My Starbucks Idea blog with customers inquiring, “When will Starbucks just bring me my coffee?” For some, the answer was October 2015.

New York's Empire State Building is home to the first Starbucks Green Apron Delivery service where Starbucks baristas bring customers their favorite beverage or food item. A pilot project designed for a dense urban environment, the building-specific service complements Starbucks broad portfolio of stores – from immersive coffee bars, to the familiar neighborhood store.

But customers aren’t just in office buildings. They’re at soccer games with their kids, at home with family, or gathering at a park with friends. In many of cases, they also want the ease of getting Starbucks delivered where they want it, when they want it. To bring this delivery experience to life, Starbucks is collaborating with leading on-demand delivery service Postmates for a pilot program, where customers can have Starbucks food or beverages delivered to them within designated areas in Seattle. Starbucks Delivery by Postmates, is an extension of the Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay feature.

“Our customers are highly engaged with Mobile Order & Pay, placing 5 million transactions a month, so delivery becomes a natural extension that provides another easy and convenient way to meet them where they are in their day,” said Adam Brotman, Starbucks chief digital officer.

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Starbucks Milano Duetto – an innovative ode to coffee, arts and culture