Trendwire, March 5, 2008

Trendwire, March 5, 2008

Food & Drink

Trendwire, March 5, 2008



The Food Channel Trendwire
March 5, 2008 • Volume 22, Number 5 •

Starbucks Espresso Training Next Step in the Heated Coffee Wars

Starbucks announced layoffs of 600 partners (employees) 2 weeks ago, primarily located in its Seattle headquarters. In another bold move, Starbucks closed nearly all of its U.S. locations last Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, from 5:30 pm-9:00 pm for what it called “Espresso Training.” (For the company press release about the event, check out the website ( In the more than 3-hour training session, Starbucks focused on “reaffirming our coffee leadership,” because, “neither we nor our customers will settle for the status quo.” The company promises that starting Wednesday morning “Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we’ll make it right.”

Coffee competitors gave Starbucks customers several alternatives to satisfy their evening caffeine cravings:

  • The day before, in this press release at its website (
    ), Dunkin’ Donuts offered customers 99-cent coffee drinks during the training session time. Without pointing to Starbucks directly, the inference was undeniable. Here’s a brief excerpt: “On Tuesday, February 26, Dunkin’ Donuts wants to ensure that no coffee lover is denied a delicious espresso-based beverage. The world’s largest coffee and baked goods chain will offer all customers a small latte, cappuccino or espresso drink of their choice, hot or iced, for the special price of 99 cents. The promotion will be available in participating Dunkin’ Donuts shops across the country from 1 PM to 10 PM.” Later in the announcement, it cited its ranking as #1 in customer loyalty for the second year in a row as the reason for the promotion.
  • Caffé Vita (, a Seattle-based independent coffee chain with five locations, announced free coffee on its website: “Three hours of complimentary coffee! In celebration of our highly skilled baristas and the superior quality of our coffee, all Caffé Vita locations are offering complimentary coffee and espresso drinks on Tuesday, February 26, between 5:30pm and 8:30pm.”
  • Biggby Coffee’s ( 16 Grand Rapids, Mich., stores gave away free coffee during the training session. Biggby Coffee has more than 80 stores in the Midwest and Southeast, but only the Grand Rapids stores participated in the promotion.

This story is notable in and of itself, especially for a publication like TrendWire, which is focused on food trends in the U.S. But what is even more intriguing is the scope of the coverage the story is receiving, with many major outlets covering it, including—

The media is covering the story (in at least 805 separate articles according to Google) from a variety of angles, such as discussing the causes of Starbucks’ current woes (everything from too rapid expansion to the looming recession), interviewing thwarted customers outside the closed-for-training stores, giving the scoop from inside the training sessions, or simply reviewing the results of the training: was the coffee better Wednesday morning?

This topic is not going away anytime soon. McDonald’s, an up-and-coming player in the coffee wars, had no comment on the Starbucks training and did not give away free or reduced-price coffee during the training. It will, however, be a force over the next year in the coffee war brewin’.

Continuing Legal Action in “Downer” Cattle Food Recall

On Feb. 17, Westland/Hallmark Meat Company based in Chino, Calif., recalled 143 million pounds of beef from this month, in response to the Humane Society of the United States ( distributing video evidence the company violated health regulations. Specifically, the meat company was allowing “downer” cattle, or cattle that can’t walk, to be slaughtered for human consumption. Meat from downer cattle is more likely to be contaminated with disease, including E.coli, salmonella, and Mad Cow Disease. About 50 million pounds of that meat was sent to school lunch programs in 40 states and the District of Columbia, and of that amount, at least 20 million pounds already have been eaten, federal officials said.

Now, the Human Society is suing the USDA, trying to close the loophole in the law that basically says, if the cattle can be violently shoved to their feet even briefly, they can be included in the food supply. Read its press release at

The fallout from the recall continues, as the U.S. Congress is now looking for answers to two related problems. The Senate is tackling the first one, a question of oversight and inspection: Is the USDA doing all it can to ensure a safe food supply? In a meeting on Thursday, 2/28/08, Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, and other members of the committee recommended that the USDA use video cameras for “total surveillance” of cattle before slaughter and completely ban the use of “downer” cattle in the food supply no matter what the circumstances. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer contends that the current rules are safe enough; Westland/Hallmark just didn’t follow them.

The second question, being pondered in the House of Representatives, is addressing the quality of our federally assisted food programs, including the School Lunch Program. “The latest Hallmark/Westland beef recall raises red flags about the standards we are using to maintain the safety and quality of the food we are using in our federal assistance programs, including the School Lunch Program,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who heads the House of Representatives Agricultural Appropriations subcommittee.

While the USDA continues the investigation into the Westland/Hallmark facility, the agency has agreed to spend more time verifying humane handling practices are followed, inspecting plants where violations are most likely to occur and increasing the frequency of unannounced audits at facilities that provide beef for federal food programs.

We think this is just the tip of the iceberg for continued conversations, debates, and likely legislation that will impact our supply chain of animal products on their way to consumers.



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