The Worst Starbucks Product Flops Of All Time

The Worst Starbucks Product Flops Of All Time

HAYLEY PETERSON NOV. 11, 2013, 5:27 PM 25,641 1

Melody Overton

After decades of domination in the coffee market, Starbucks is now entering brand new territory with the launch of 1,000 tea bars over the next five years. The company has clearly had success introducing hundreds of new drinks and other coffee products over the years. But along the way, Starbucks has also had its fair share of flops.  Carbonated coffee, liquid chocolate and a brief foray into the magazine industry are a few of Starbucks’ ventures that have failed. Melody Overton, a Seattle attorney who runs the blog, helped us compile some of the most notable failures in the company’s 42-year history. She originally posted a list of flops on Quora.Barista Bar Blender

The Starbucks Barista Bar Blender was rolled out in stores in 2003 and cost around $100, according to Overton.

An ad for the blender reads, “Whip up everything from rich coffee smoothies to creamy dessert drinks, even frosty cocktails — all in a matter of moments.”

The company released a few recipes with the machine, including an “Irish Bliss” smoothie with Starbucks coffee ice cream, almonds and chilled coffee.

But the company failed to wow Frappuccino and smoothie drinkers, or at least show them how the machine was any different from a regular brand-name blender. It was eventually discontinued.


Named after the Aztec goddess of hearth and fire, the Chantico was literally liquid chocolate.

It was made of steamed cocoa butter and whole milk for a whopping 390 calories and 20 grams of fat in every six-ounce cup. It was rolled out in January 2005 and cost between $2.65 and $2.95.

“Imagine drinking a melted truffle and you’re close to the Chantico chocolate experience,” Michelle Gass, then Starbucks’ senior vice president of category management, told CNN at the time.

Apparently, no one wanted to drink truffles. The drink was pulled from the menu 11 months after its launch.


Starbucks partnered with PepsiCo to make Mazagran, a bottled hybrid of coffee and soda that was sold in grocery and convenience stores in 1994.

On packaging, the drink was called “sparkling coffee.”

In his book “Pour Your Heart Into It,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz described the drink as polarizing.

“Some loved it, others hated it,” he wrote. “A lot of customers were willing to give it a try because of the Starbucks brand name, but Mazagran didn’t get the repeat business we had hoped for.”

In 1995, Starbucks ditched the drink in favor of bottled Frappuccinos, which experienced huge success and are still popular today.

Joe Magazine

Melody Overton

Joe Magazine was launched in 1999 by Starbucks in partnership with Time Inc. It survived through just three issues before the plug was pulled.

Overton, who purchased an issue of the magazine on eBay, described the articles as “esoteric” and “abstract.” One issue ran an article that compared office cubicles to electronic coffins. Another article described the transformation of a California town into a film set.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is quoted talking about the failed venture in a book called “Contemporary Business (2009 Update)” by Louis E. Boone.

“I took Starbucks into the magazine business with Joe – my idea,” he says. “Nobody read it. Since Joe failed, I’ve kept a rack of issues in my office so everyone can see the magazine and realize we shouldn’t hide behind our mistakes and we should have the courage to keep pushing by not embracing the status quo. I keep that there as a memento. It was an embarrassing defeat and we lost a fair amount of money, but sometimes you have to have the courage to fail.”

VIA Ready Brewers

This was “essentially a hot water brewer — and a very cheap one at that,” Overton wrote on Quora.

The VIA Ready Brewer, which is still available for $29.50 on, does not brew coffee.

As Overton notes, it is only a hot water brewer intended for use with Starbucks’ VIA instant coffee.

Flickr/Crystal Calderon

This tart and fruity drink came in flavors like “tropical tangy creme” and “berry pink citrus.”

The Sorbetto, which cost about $2.75 for 10 ounces, was rolled out in the summer of 2008 and Starbucks dropped it from the menu one year later.

Reuters reported at the time that “it failed to wow consumers and cleaning the machine that dispensed Sorbetto was a bane to baristas, who complained that it added about 45 minutes to closing duties.”

Tazo Tea Infusions


Starbucks tried unsuccessfully to break into the juicing and tea markets at the same time in 2009 by infusing — or technically steaming — juice into its tea.

Flavors included the Apple Chai Infusion and the Berry Chai Infusion.

In a December 2008 press release, Starbucks marketed the new product as a the “perfect winter pick-me-up.”

From the press release:

“It’s essential to take a pause and allow yourself to feel calm and at peace. In fact, taking a break can clear your mind and enable you to be more productive during a busy day,” says Lisa Drayer, registered dietitian and wellness expert. “A tea break is a quick and simple way to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul in the New Year. And since they provide a boost of anti-aging antioxidants, a tea beverage from Starbucks offers a healthful respite in today’s stressful environment.”

But these drinks didn’t last long on the menu. “Those simply were not popular,” Overton writes on Quora.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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