Starbucks is betting big on olive oil-infused coffee, hoping customers will be drawn to the anomaly and health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
“This is one of the biggest launches we’ve had in decades,” Starbucks chief marketing officer Brady Brewer told CNN. Former CEO Howard Schultz added in an interview with Poppy Harlow that it will “transform the coffee industry” and be “a very profitable new addition to the business”.
But what the company may not have considered: Some customers say it forces them to run to the bathroom.
“Half the team tried it yesterday and a few ended up…needing to use the restroom, if you know what I mean,” one barista posted on the Starbucks Reddit page. CNN has reached out to the Redditor for comment.
Maybe it’s the sheen of the oil. Or it could be the aftertaste. Social media was quick to condemn the drink — and its aftereffects.
“This oleato drink from starbs makes my stomach talk,” one user tweeted.
Those with sensitive stomachs are already tired.
“IBD patient here. I wouldn’t touch those drinks with a ten foot pole,” said a Redditor.
The new platform, Oleato, was rolled out in Italy in February. Each drink — an oat milk latte, an iced oat milk espresso, and a golden froth cold brew — is made with a dollop of oil, adding 120 calories to a drink. Select Starbucks stores in Seattle and Los Angeles and Reserves in Chicago, Seattle and New York now serve the beverage platform.
CNN has contacted Starbucks for comment.
Olive oil is a staple of Mediterranean culture and some drink chunks of olive oil daily in the region.
But the Starbucks drink has a potentially fragile combination: caffeine, which is a stimulant, and olive oil, which is a relaxant.
A 16-ounce drink contains up to 34 grams of fat, which is more than many find in a meal, dietitian nutritionist Erin Palinski-Wade said. And mineral oils like olive oils tend to be used to treat constipation because they help soften stools, making it easier to get to the toilet.
“If you combine a high fat content in a meal or in a drink with coffee, which already stimulates the bowels,” Palinski-Wade said, “that combination can cause cramping. It can lead to increased mobility in the colon and therefore have this laxative effect.
Some customers said the speed at which they had to use the toilet after drinking the drink caught them off guard. But high-fat meals take longer to digest than liquid olive oil, which will reach the digestive tract faster, Palinski-Wade said. And most people in the US drink coffee on the go and don’t pair the drink with carbs and fiber to negate the impact.
The benefits of olive oil are widely publicized, from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to lowering blood pressure (although the positive health results may be due to the Mediterranean diet replacing the unhealthy fats like butter with olive oil, reported the New York Times).
“(The drink) is not going to make someone physically ill from a negative health impact perspective,” Palinski-Wade said. “But no more of that uncomfortable feeling of having to go to the bathroom or potentially cramping.”
In the Mediterranean, taking a spoonful of olive oil a day is part of everyday life. Former CEO Howard Schultz picked up the habit himself from olive oil producer Tommaso Asaro while he was in Sicily, Italy.
“When we got together and started doing this ritual, I said to [Asaro], I know you think I’m going to go crazy, but have you ever thought of infusing a tablespoon of olive oil with Starbucks coffee? Schultz told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. “He thought it was a bit strange.” Asaro is the president of United Olive Oil, through which Starbucks sources its olive oil.