Posted by: nickgerlich | September 14, 2007

Juvenile Jitters

A deep, dark secret was spread this week. Listen carefully, because I can’t say it very loudly.

Starbucks sells coffee to children.

StarbucksYes, the venerable chain that has made possible the reincarnation of the coffee klatsch has come out of its caffeine closet and confessed that kids are an important part of its market base. The company that has enhanced the American lexicon with words like latte, mocha, and barista has come clean.

Fearing that consumer critics and child advocates would feast upon them for making our children even more hyper, Starbucks is trying to downplay its sales to these addicts-in-training. It is a solid move toward responsible marketing (or in this case, de-marketing).

I don’t know of any parents who really want to juice up their kids with 200mg of caffeine. That’s enough to launch them into lunar orbit. But the fact remains, there are parents who think of SBUX as a family place, and are indeed buying their kids frothy concoctions laced with the quicker picker-upper.

Never mind that teens out and about on their own absolutely love hanging out at the coffee shop. There, they get to look and act older and more sophisticated. Short of banning minors from their shops, Starbucks is going to have a hard time trying to shake this demographic.

I suppose the problem (if there really is one) is that Starbucks often fails to mention that they have small cups available. Sure, the milk and hot chocolate come in kid-friendly sizes, but how many of you know that you can buy a Small coffee? It’s not on the menu, but you can get one by asking.

I think SBUX is more guilty of upselling than they are fueling our kids. When the menu only lists sizes such as Tall, Grande, and Venti, it is obvious the emphasis is on supersizing. Good grief…24oz of coffee could have an adult bouncing off the wall. A kid chugging such a beverage would become a human ping pong ball.

Good for SBUX to at least put on the face of social responsibility. But let’s not give too many kudos. Parents are responsible for what they buy their kids, and since coffee is not illegal, teens will continue to buy it freely. It’s not like Starbucks is serving beer and cigarettes to minors.

Thanks for the courtesy, but I think we’ve got this one under control. For now.

Dr “Java Junkie” Gerlich

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