Situation: Warmed food was an established norm for consumers in international markets. Other than the UK who used panini grills, no Starbucks stores provided a warm food experience for its customers. Many competitors had ovens and captured incremental store traffic and coffee transactions as a result. Given this competitive and consumer opportunity, Starbucks’ international leadership identified a Starbucks quality warm food experience as a significant growth platform. opportunity.

Challenge: Build and launch a warmed food technology platform and capability for international stores.

What We Did: Developing and then launching new equipment in Starbucks stores across 52 international markets – a mix of wholly-owned and joint ventures – is highly complex, requiring significant work gaining input and building business cases to gain support to implement. Success required making it simple for markets to implement. Achieving this required continuous involvement from global, regional and occasionally local market teams from numerous functions, including store design, store development, real estate, partner safety, equipment R&D, product development, supply chain/procurement, logistics, store operations, category management and marketing.

The oven had been developed and approved by leadership. Now the innovation platform needed to be implemented. Economics validated that the cost to implement was nominal, paying off the investment in a surprisingly short time frame. As a result, even the more challenging joint venture markets embraced the platform and the team moved into implementation.

To accommodate multiple store designs, the team centrally designed a modular store retrofit kit supporting existing stores as well as a new design kit for the many stores still in the planning or design phase. The international team developed a new line of warmed food products and recipes for markets to launch along with the platform. To further support implementation, the international food team led training regional and lead market teams on implementing and operating the warmed food system in their stores. Over the subsequent months, the food team launched numerous warmed products for markets to develop and launch locally. 

Results: The Starbucks warmed food platform became the cornerstone of the food program in all of Starbucks 52 international markets other than the UK who maintained its successful panini platform.  The food program accelerated to strong double-digit growth in the months following the launch of the platform and introduction of the new products.

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“Stuart brings an exceptionally sharp strategic mind with an unbridled energy to actively advance initiatives and get work done. He is quite a creative and conceptual innovator while being pragmatic and focused on results. Stuart effectively brings teams together, focusing and motivating them to get work done.”

Murray Darling
Vice President, Starbucks International



Situation: Doritos and Lay’s brands were strong brands on a national basis but research revealed an opportunity to gain fair share of ethnic consumer consumption occasions and geographies, specifically among Hispanics, a large and high growth segment of the snack food business.

Challenge: Define the product strategy and launch new products that drive sales with Hispanic consumers and build relevance of the snack brand portfolio.

What we did: We developed a consumer-driven product strategy then led the development and launch four new products.   

Research proved that Hispanic consumers perceived Doritos and Lay’s brands as aspirational, high-quality brands. However, research equally revealed that neither brand offered products that addressed the rich food culture of Hispanic consumers. Hispanic foods have threaded mainstream foods and consumption for many years and this was evident in everything from Mexican and Caribbean restaurants to food ingredients and flavorings. They were mainstream.   

The team set the goal to build a pipeline of authentic product forms and flavors born from Hispanic food that had strong mainstream appeal. We researched and wrote over 30 new product concepts ranging from niche to mainstream. Using a new, customized research solution to recruit consumers centrally from a research bus in their neighborhoods, we moved rapidly and accurately from concept to product to final launch. As we shared the winning concept and product results across the organization, leadership and sales regions with a high density of Hispanic consumers, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, expressed strong interest in leading our launch. Working with operations, the system adapted to address a regional launch.   

The result: Our innovation started in three regions but quickly expanded across the US, showing that our targeted product had strong mainstream acceptance. Our new products delivered approximately $200M in gross revenue. Doritos Guacamole – a combination of cool guacamole, spice, cilantro and lime – generated over $80M in gross revenues in one year. The team won numerous company and industry awards for its innovation and creative marketing in support of its launches. Eventually, new and more complex form innovations, such as Taquitos, were successfully developed and launched.

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Situation: Tazo Tea was built upon the legendary passion and story-telling of Steve and Steve, two tea-loving hippies who lived in Portland, Oregon. Tazo brand positioning was strong and, as important, a heritage of alluring narrative that built both curiosity and commerce. Through the 1990’s, Tazo took the US by storm, creating a magical and mysterious new brand in the premium tea segment alongside Celestial Seasonings and Stash. Tazo also up-levelled cold teas with its ready-to-drink juiced teas, an unexpected beverage combination that competed head-on commoditized cold teas like Lipton and Nestea Iced Teas.  The industry took notice and Starbucks Coffee – seeing an opportunity to extend its coffee concept – purchased Tazo as a day-part compliment to its coffee business. After many years at rest in a larger coffee company, Tazo eased its pace and gradually lost momentum.

Challenge: Re-ignite Tazo brands visibility, credibility and business growth

What We Did: Research confirmed the brand positioning and multi-channel business model for Tazo was advantaged; the issue was innovation. Returning Tazo to the highest levels of the category required significant change across the portfolio of fresh, shelf stable and ready-to-drink tea products. Research confirmed discerning tea drinkers looked to hot tea to legitimize brands. And hot tea is the majority of consumption globally. After taking notes from US and international brands, such as Mighty Leaf Teas and Numi in the US, loose leaf tea in sachets had become the new premium. While moving from “cut leaf” to “loose leaf” teas was relatively straightforward from a brand and market perspective, the platform introduced significant operational and financial challenges. Building and evaluating the financial model, the capital investment for new packaging equipment for loose leaf teas in sachets paid-out at a price point that Starbucks customers were willing to pay for. A series of “rapid tests” in Starbucks stores and survey results with customers revealed solutions to make it easy for baristas to give customers a great tea experience easy and limited distraction from serving coffee. After a long and measured transition to the new platform, the team launched a consumer campaign including all aspects of the Starbucks marketing engine – from public relations to signage to in-store sampling.

The US remains Starbucks largest market and the US was dominated by iced tea. In order to serve the US market, the team ramped up Tazo’s cold tea innovation. With carbonated soft drinks in a nose dive, consumers were seeking healthier iced beverages. Most iced teas were compromised by sugar and other ingredients. With a strong “shaken tea” platform and “ready-to-drink” business in supermarkets, Tazo had the opportunity to add fresh new combinations of fresh tea and juice beverages in Starbucks stores. In addition, consumers wanted more refreshment from their iced tea drinks creating an opportunity to introduce a new size of healthy iced teas. We researched, developed and launched the new 31 oz. “Trenta” size for Tazo iced teas only, a healthy refreshment solution. Despite early concerns from consumers, our research showed that a well-defined 31 oz. product positioning built around “more healthy refreshment” transformed perceptions and purchase intent. As tea is always a secondary thought for Starbucks and its customers, we worked to create more in-store visibility, placing the cold tea product alongside other iced beverages in marketing during the hot summer months. 

The Result: The hot team platform accelerated to the highest growth rate in the Starbucks beverage portfolio. A number of major supermarket customers launched the loose-leaf line with new packaging, eventually accelerating Tazo sales across the CPG channel. The launch of Trenta delivered double-digit profit growth for the iced portfolio. The line-up of new iced tea concepts inspired the future launch of Starbucks Refreshers and Iced White Tea beverages. The brand’s visibility across stores in the US had reached new levels, putting Tazo back into consideration of daily visitors to Starbucks stores and setting the stage for long-term rise to its deserved leadership position in premium tea segment.

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Situation: Coros Wearables is a technology developer and manufacturer who invented a breakthrough product for the cycling market, the Coros LINX Smart Cycling helmet. LINX allowed cyclists to ride “hands free and ears open” while getting navigation data, ride data, phone calls, and music through bone conduction technology. LINX was a breakthrough and timely product. The investors were eager to launch in the US market but lacked an understanding of cycling, the cycling market and its highly-tuned culture.

Challenge: Build and implement the brand positioning, brand strategy, launch plan and infrastructure to launch Coros brand and the LINX Smart Helmet. Implement “Phase 1” of the launch.

What we did: The team launched the Coros brand and the LINX helmet in the US market. Our work was end-to-end including developing brand positioning and strategy, brand identity, the messaging platform, media and public relations, advertising creative, website development, social media channel presence, video content marketing, influencer and athlete ambassador programming and consumer and trade event execution. The team rapidly assembled a network of talented partners to build and launch all aspects of the brand experience and launch campaign leading to and through Kickstarter, a popular platform frequently used to build buzz and sell start-up products. On the operations side, the team effectively forecasted, produced and shipped inventory to be in a position to fulfill Kickstarter orders quickly, a key issue of the platform in the past. The team constructed the systems to support these logistics and shipping of product to end-users and independent bike dealers preparing to sell the product in the prime spring season.

As an “add-on,” the team built the strategy and concepted the next generation of performance cycling helmets to strengthen its position with competitive riders and enthusiasts and gain additional retail momentum.   

The Result: The first phase of launch was an award-winning jump start launch of Coros. The team achieved 639% of the sales target on Kickstarter, placing among the top 1% of all Kickstarter campaigns. The cycling industry broadly applauded Coros LINX, gaining significant positive press with influential cycling and technology media like Bicycling Magazine, Triathlon Magazine, Fast Company, DC Rainmaker, Bike Rumor and Geekwire. Outside Magazine named Coros LINX “Gear of the Show” at Interbike 2016 and one of the “must have” products for 2017. Bike and outdoor retailers were ordering LINX for the critical spring inventory load in.

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