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Starbucks announces plans for new research facility with Arizona State University

Starbucks research facility

Starbucks and Arizona State University (ASU) are joining forces to create the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future of People and the Planet – a new research and rapid innovation facility created to find new ways to design, build, and operate Starbucks stores.

“Over the last several years we have been reinventing Starbucks for our future and transforming the way we drive innovation at Starbucks,” says Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO.

“As we continuously focus on elevating the Starbucks Experience, introducing new and exciting beverage innovation, and reimagining customer experiences both in-store and through more personalised digital relationships, we constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways to give back more than we take, using our power at scale to create a better society in which we all live.”

Scheduled to open in December 2021 on ASU’s Tempe campus, the ASU-Starbucks Center will be built on the same principle as the Starbucks Tryer Center – bringing ideas to action – supported by ASU’s applied research and on-campus test store ecosystem. The Tryer Center, located on the bottom floor of the Starbucks Support Center in Seattle, is an incubation lab where employees can quickly test, learn, and adapt ideas for more rapid decision making. This space represents a mindset of innovation embraced across the organisation, which will further propagate at the ASU-Starbucks Center for the Future of People and the Planet.

“ASU and Starbucks are aligned in our missions to be of complete service to the communities we serve and build a better future for both people and the planet,” says ASU President Michael Crow.

“Through this new centre, ASU will provide unique value in terms of research and transdisciplinary expertise in order to collaborate with Starbucks to develop, test and validate strategies that can ultimately be scaled to stores and communities globally.”

Composed of a dedicated team of scientists, researchers, and support staff, including subject-matter experts from Starbucks and ASU, the centre’s objective is to positively impact the future of our planet.

ASU is a leader in transdisciplinary research on pathways towards a future that allows life to thrive on a healthy planet. The recently launched Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory is the focal point of these efforts and the home of the new centre. Initially, more than 15 faculty and staff from across the university will support the ASU-Starbucks Center activities. As the centre expands, its scope and capacity will increase leveraging ASU’s broad expertise and strength in innovation.

In the first year, the centre’s work will focus on:

  • Greener Stores: The centre will build out and open source the Greener Stores program to continue to innovate solutions for Starbucks stores and to inspire others to design, build and operate portfolios of buildings that minimise environmental impacts throughout their life cycle. This includes developing a roadmap for Greener Stores education efforts, including a toolkit and learning library, to be made available for Starbucks stakeholders and other industry stakeholders via Starbucks Global Academy.
  • Food and wellness: To empower customers to make the right choices for them and to promote environmental practices, the centre will explore alternative menu items, including plant-based offerings and protein sources. The centre will also develop tools and trainings to improve environmental impacts and opportunities for current and new products.
  • Community betterment: In line with Starbucks commitment to creating a warm and welcoming environment, the centre will leverage the Third Place environment as a catalyst for positive change across local, national, and global communities. This includes inspiring partners (employees) to become “Community Champions” by offering training, support, and a community-development playbook to help enhance civic infrastructure and activity in their neighbourhoods.
  • Innovation Test Stores: ASU’s four campuses in the Phoenix metro area offer nine licensed Starbucks stores, run by Aramark, that will act as innovation labs to test and evaluate strategies resulting from centre research. In-store testing will include new plant-based food and beverage offerings designed to reduce carbon intensity, strategies to improve recycling and circularity (including reusables), and new technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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