Starbucks' New Year's Resolution

If there's anything New Year's Eve is known for -- other than funny hats, confetti, and maybe a little too much champagne -- it's the New Year's resolutions that many people dream up (and often break). Just in time for anybody who's got the "diet" resolution, Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) is introducing The Skinny Latte platform.

A "Skinny" drink, as Starbucks calls it, consists of a nonfat latte with sugar-free syrup. As an example, the company noted that a tall Cafe Latte or Cafe Mocha of the Skinny variety would rack up just 90 calories. (That's half the calories of a regular tall Cafe Latte with whole milk, according to the company's own handy nutrition calculator. And a non-Skinny tall Cafe Mocha, with whole milk and whipped cream, clocks in at 290 calories -- non-Skinny indeed.)

It's a great idea for Starbucks to publicize healthy offerings (although now that it's done so, it sure does make you marvel at the calories in the regular offerings). Starbucks has been targeted by the fat police before, and lowering the calories and fat is nothing new for the coffee giant; I wrote about Starbucks' offering skinnier drink options for Frappuccinos way back in 2004.

Plus, if Starbucks is going to cater to kids, it's best to have more healthy options, too, given rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. And of course, it certainly doesn't hurt in the company's aims to fight against lower-end rivals like Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , not to mention fellow coffee slingers like Peet's (Nasdaq: PEET  ) and Caribou (Nasdaq: CBOU  ) .  

In the short term, the Skinny platform likely won't fatten up Starbucks' share price. And the press release does seem like a bit of a fluffy way to try to jazz up would-be New Year's dieters, some of whom may have been tempted to ring in the New Year with black coffee, no sugar. Strategically, however, it seems to me that Starbucks investors are well-served by the company's attention to providing the options many customers might demand, and the skinnier latte and mocha options certainly fit the bill.

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