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Starbucks celebrates its 50th anniversary and looks at the year ahead

Starbucks has hosted its annual meeting of shareholders where senior leadership and employees from around the world gathered virtually to reflect on the company’s 50-year history.

Since its beginning in 1971, Starbucks says it has been a “different kind of company – with people at the centre – balancing profitability with social conscience”. The 50-year journey has been grounded in a mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time. Staying true to its heritage, Starbucks says it’s looking towards the future.

From one store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1971 to nearly 33,000 stores serving customers globally, Starbucks says it has always believed that coffee can help build community and power human connections. This “third place”, where all are welcome, is more important than ever as the world will start to emerge from COVID-19.

“Over the past 50 years, we have built a company that’s about more than coffee,” says Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO. “It’s about the human experience, connection and community, and we need that now more than ever.”

Following the announcement of Mellody Hobson’s appointment at Starbucks Investor Day Conference in December, the annual meeting marked her first day in the role. Hobson, who first joined the board as an independent director in 2005, was appointed to board vice chair in 2018. She assumes the post following the retirement of outgoing board chair Myron E Ullman, III.

The company announced several updates that will enhance inclusion and the accessibility of the “Starbucks Experience” for employees and customers. On 15 March, Starbucks became the first food and beverage retailer to offer a free Aira service for customers at all United States Starbucks stores and Siren Retail locations, in partnership with San Diego-based Aira Tech Corp.

Through a third-party smartphone service app, Aira connects blind and low-vision people to highly trained, remotely located agents to provide instant access to visual information. Offering Aira service is part of the company’s ongoing work to improve and enhance the accessibility of physical and digital experiences for Starbucks employees and customers through inclusive design. Starbucks will also offer new large print and Braille menus in all US and Canada stores this summer, developed in partnership with National Braille Press.

On the beverage innovation front, Starbucks says it is focused on providing customers with new and relevant beverages and food. Over the past three years, Starbucks cold beverage business has driven more than US$1 billion in sales growth and the company continues to innovate for customers in this space most recently with the launch of Iced Shaken Espresso beverages in the U.S.

Leveraging customer insights, the company is focused on delighting customers through new beverage recipes and plans to test Cold Pressed Espresso in a limited number of stores by the end of the year. Originally introduced at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle- the company’s pipeline for innovation – this patent-pending technology allows the company to further elevate the customer experience through premium beverage design and unlocks future opportunity in the cold craft coffee category.

“We’ve made great advances in cold coffee innovation in response to the ever-growing customer demand and interest, from Cold Brew, to Nitro Cold Brew to the newest Iced Shaken Espresso beverages,” says Luigi Bonini, Senior Vice President, Global Product and Research & Development at Starbucks.

“The method of cold pressing espresso to order, which tastes exceptionally smooth, full-bodied and sweet, has opened up so many exciting possibilities for the future of cold craft coffee recipes.”

In 2022, Starbucks will open its Coffee Innovation Park in China, one of the first sustainable roasting plants in Starbucks global network, marking another step towards the company’s bold aspiration to become resource positive and give more than it takes from the planet.

This next-generation facility will showcase innovation in smart supply chain operations, state of the art technologies and an immersive experience centre that will highlight Starbucks sustainability practices at every chapter of the bean-to-cup coffee journey.

As part of the company’s commitment to be a resource positive company, Starbucks announced a new goal to achieve carbon neutral green coffee and conserve water usage in green coffee processing by 50 per cent by 2030. This commitment builds on Starbucks work to source coffee responsibly, for the betterment of people and planet, while we also work to empower farmers, improve their livelihoods, and positively impact their communities, all with the aspiration of ensuring a sustainable future of coffee.

Starbucks shared that last year it once again achieved and maintained 100% pay equity by race and gender for similar roles in the US, and 100 per cent gender equity in pay in China, Canada, and other company operated global markets, including Austria, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland.

Building on a longstanding commitment to advancing opportunity for all, The Starbucks Foundation committed to invest US$5 million in non-profits that serve Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) youth. As a next step in this initiative, today The Foundation announced the first group of grant recipients: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, City Year, Junior Achievement USA and The National Mentoring Partnership

“At Starbucks, we believe it is our responsibility to build bridges and advance social and racial equity on behalf of our partners and communities,” says Virginia Tenpenny, Chief Social Impact Officer at Starbucks and Executive Director of The Starbucks Foundation.

“We are honoured to partner with non-profits that aspire for thriving and equitable communities, and which have decades of experience empowering people. The Starbucks Foundation will continue supporting programs that address systemic barriers to equitable outcomes and can contribute to closing the racial opportunity gap.”

The news follows the rollout of US$1.5 million in Neighborhood Grants from The Starbucks Foundation in October, focused on supporting organizations that are Black-led and/or serve BIPOC communities and are dedicated to promoting economic mobility and opportunity, health and social services and youth.

In case you missed it, you can watch Starbucks 2021 Annual Meeting of Shareholders here.

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