Starbucks, with a stock market value of $51.6 billion, is currently the largest coffeehouse company in the world, far ahead of its closest rival, Costa Coffee. As of last count, Starbucks has a total of 151,000 full-time employees working in 20,519 stores found in 65 countries and territories. Of these stores, more than 13,000 are in America, over 1,900 in China, and over 900 in Japan. In fact, there was a point when Starbucks was opening an average of two new stores each day.
However, even with such a large number of stores and employees, there are still a number of surprising facts about the company that the average person — or even the avid Starbucks customer — doesn’t know. Here are ten interesting facts about Starbucks that will give customers something new to talk about the next time they enjoy a cup at their favorite coffee shop:
10. Starbucks supports the legalization of same-sex marriage.
In early 2012, Starbucks was one of several well-known companies from the Washington area that supported a state measure to legalize same-sex marriage. More specifically, Starbucks released a statement that said,
Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Starbucks strives to create a company culture that puts our partners first, and our company has a lengthy history of leading and supporting policies that promote equality and inclusion.
In response to Starbucks’s show of support for the legalization of same-sex unions, the National Organization for Marriage received 22,000 signatures in favor of a Starbucks boycott. However, advocates of same-sex marriage countered that show of force with 640,000 signatures of their own in support of Starbucks’ position.
9. Starbucks was founded by two teachers and a writer.
In 1971, three students met at the University of San Francisco, and they eventually ended up becoming an English teacher (Jerry Baldwin), a history teacher (Zev Siegl), and a writer (Gordon Bowker). Later, Alfred Peet, a coffee roasting entrepreneur who owned Peet’s Coffee & Tea, taught the three how he roasted high-quality coffee beans. That encouraged Baldwin, Siegl and Bowker to enter the coffee business. During the first year of their business’s operation, the three friends purchased coffee beans from Peet’s shop, and in 1984, the three friends actually bought Peet’s. Today, however, the three are no longer directly involved with Starbucks after having left the company and sold their shares at different points in time.
8. Starbucks was almost named “Cargo House” or “Pequod”.
According to Starbucks co-founder Gordon Bowker, he and his friends were desperately close to calling their company Cargo House until Terry Heckler, one of Bowker’s partners in an advertising agency, mentioned that words beginning with “st” were powerful ones. Bowker then came up with a list of “st” words, and someone saw the old mining town of Starbo in a map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier. That ended up reminding Bowker of a character in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which in turn, reminded him of Pequod – the name of an ill-fated ship in the novel. That caused Heckler to react, “No one’s going to drink a cup of Pequod!” Later, during a brainstorming session, the founders decided that they would instead name their brand after Pequod’s first mate, Starbuck.
7. The original Starbucks logo showed showed a suggestively posed mermaid with exposed breasts.
The Starbucks logo is one of the most instantly recognizable ones in the world, but who is that woman in it? Well, although the most recent incarnation of the logo doesn’t make the fact so obvious, the woman is actually a sixteenth century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed siren. And as for the connection between a siren and coffee, the company’s name was inspired by a fictional whaler, so a mermaid isn’t that far off from the nautical theme. Perhaps, Starbucks hopes to associate its coffee with the irresistibly seductive powers of a siren. Nevertheless, the company has chosen to cover up the siren’s bare breasts and her suggestively positioned twin tails, which were visible in the original brown-colored version of its logo.
6. The first Starbucks didn’t sell ready-to-drink coffee.
The first ever Starbucks shop, located at 2000 Western Avenue in Seattle, Washington was opened on March 30, 1971. Surprisingly, the store didn’t sell brewed coffee, as the founders originally intended their company to sell roasted whole coffee beans and coffee-making equipment. In fact, the only brewed coffee found in the store was free samples given away to entice tasters to purchase the store’s beans and equipment.
Later, when Howard Schultz was hired to be the Director of Retail Operations after about ten years of Starbucks’s operations, he came to the conclusion that Starbucks should be selling brewed coffee, not just beans and machines. The owners, however, disagreed, so Schultz began his own chain of coffee bars named Giornale in 1986. Eventually, Schultz bought Starbucks, renamed his two Giornale shops to Starbucks, and quickly began expanding the company.
5. Starbucks spends more on the healthcare insurance of its employees than on its coffee beans.
When Howard Schultz returned as Starbucks CEO in 2008, the company took a hard look at its expenses and set the goal of cutting $600 million out of it. That highlighted the company’s expenses on health insurance for its employees, which amounted to a staggering $300 million — more than Starbucks spent on coffee beans. However, despite being urged to drastically decrease that amount or cut it out altogether, Schultz refused to dilute employees’ benefits. Instead, he chose to shut down 600 stores, 80% of those having been open for only less than two years. In fact, when a shareholder called Schultz and criticized his decision not to cut expenses on employees’ health insurance, he told the investor that if he felt so strongly about his position, he should sell his stock. (The investor didn’t sell.)
4. The Starbucks Trenta contains more liquid than the average human stomach can hold.
Previously, Starbucks sold drinks in the following sizes: Short (8 ounces), Tall (12 ounces), Grande (16 ounces), and Venti (20 ounces). Already, some customers found the Venti too large to finish off, but in 2011, Starbucks rolled out the Trenta (meaning “thirty” in Italian) — a whopping 30.9-ounce sized version of the company’s beverages. And if science is to be believed, no one can gulp down a Trenta. That’s because an average human adult can hold only 30.4 ounces of fluid. But of course, Starbucks customers are known to stay at the store for hours on end (and take bathroom breaks in between), so it’s likely that there is actually a market for the enormous drink.
3. Starbucks is market-testing a beer-flavored latte.
Starbucks has introduced all sorts of flavors to keep its menu fresh and exciting. During previous halloween seasons, for instance, the pumpkin spice latte was introduced and gained considerable popularity. But a beer-flavored latte?
Yes, a Dark Barrel Latte — a drink with a “savory toasty malt” flavor — is being rolled out in Ohio and Florida stores. Alcohol lovers shouldn’t get too excited, though; the drink doesn’t contain any alcohol and is instead made up of “a blend of espresso, dark caramel and chocolaty stout-flavored sauce and freshly steamed milk” and comes iced, hot, or as a Frappuccino. However, alcohol-guzzling patrons may have something to look forward to as Starbucks has announced that it will start selling wine and beer in some of its locations.
2. A Venti Starbucks Coffee has more than five times the caffeine of a Red Bull.
Research says that for an average adult, a healthy dose of caffeine is 400 mg a day. Well, with 415 mg of caffeine, the Starbucks Grande coffee contains more than that recommended daily allowance. And how does that compare to a Red Bull? An 8.4 fl. oz. serving of the energy drink contains only 80 mg of caffeine.
The more important question though is: Is all that caffeine bad for you? Well, the answer depends on who is asked. Several studies have shown that too much caffeine contributes to heart disease, hypertension, and pancreatic cancer, but other studies claim that caffeine actually has many important health benefits. What isn’t contested, however, is that taking 10,000 mg of caffeine at once is lethal. But that amount would require more than 25 cups of Venti Starbucks coffee.
1. Starbucks’s profit margin in China is higher than in other countries.
Yes, it’s true: the 1,909 Starbucks branches in China make more money per cup than anywhere in the world. More specifically, a cup of Starbucks coffee priced at $3.81 in London costs the equivalent of $4.81 in Beijing, which is a price difference of about 26%. Starbucks’ financial reports confirm this disparity. During the second quarter of fiscal year 2013, the profit margin in the Americas was 21.1% and 1.9% in Africa and the Middle East. In China and the Asia-Pacific region, however, Starbucks’ profit margin was at around 32%.
While Starbucks explains the price difference by pointing out that market drivers and operating costs in China differ from those in other regions, Chinese business observers point out that material costs vary little across regions. Furthermore, Starbucks’ daily operating costs are clearly lower in China than in America. On this point, Wang Zhendong, Director of the Coffee Association of Shanghai, commented, “Starbucks has been able to enjoy high prices in China, mainly because of the blind faith of local consumers in Starbucks and other Western brands.”