Is Jamba the Next Teavana?

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) turned heads yesterday with its $620 million deal to acquire Teavana (NYSE: TEA  ) . The move -- which will cash out Teavana investors at $15.50 a share, a 53% premium to where the tea retailer closed yesterday but a discount to last year's IPO price of $17 -- is interesting.

  • Starbucks has once again made an acquisition related to premium beverages. It snapped up juice bar operator Evolution Fresh in a smaller $30 million deal last year.
  • Both deals were announced during the month of November. It will be interesting to see what happens to publicly traded companies behind premium beverages next November.
  • Despite the obvious tea connection, Teavana and Starbucks are odd fits.

Teavana is an odd fit because it's not at all like Starbucks. Teavana is an upscale chain of mall stores selling 100 varieties of loose teas and ritzy tea-making equipment. Patrons can buy prepared teas, but that's a tiny sliver of the company's business.

Sure, now that Starbucks has the Verismo coffeemaker one can argue that it too is in the traditional retail business. It's still a strange pairing, especially since Starbucks was already championing its own Tazo teas.

Loaded blenders on deck
So, cutting to the chase: Will Jamba (Nasdaq: JMBA  ) be Starbucks' next November surprise?

Sure, buying the parent of the 755-unit Jamba Juice chain may seem at odds with its own lines. Evolution Fresh, while primarily a premium juice bar concept, also cranks out smoothies. Starbucks introduced its own Vivanno line of smoothies four years ago.

However, if Teavana fits with Starbucks' own Tazo, why can't Jamba Juice jibe with what the baron of baristas already has blending?

Besides, have you ever tried one of those Starbucks smoothies? They're terrible -- at least compared to the fruitier blends, gamut of boosts, and the wide menu of options available at Jamba.

Thankfully for Jamba, it may not have to wait until next November. As good as Jamba may look on the arm of Starbucks, it may make an equally fitting bride for McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) .

Ronald's getting lonely
Mickey D's stunned investors last week. For the first time since 2003, comparable-store sales declined in October.

The 1.8% slide in global comps -- and the even more problematic 2.2% dip in domestic same-unit sales -- should find McDonald's executives replacing Grimaces with grimaces.

After years of recession-busting resilience, the chain may have come to the end of the line of its organic ticket-popping menu additions. The barbell pricing approach that offset its cheaper burgers with premium chicken sandwiches, salads, and McCafe beverages has run its course.

Face it, Ronald: You're miles away from where the nearest McRib can hear you.

Jamba would help.

Yes, the McDonald's smoothies are actually better than the icy concoctions that Starbucks is blending, but they're still no match for what Jamba Juice has excelled at as the country's largest stand-alone smoothie chain.

Jamba-branded smoothies at McDonald's restaurants would be a potential game changer, but it doesn't even have to get to that point for the deal to make sense. McDonald's would be able to expand Jamba, globally, on its own merits.

Jamba has already gone where McDonald's will never be able to go. Jamba is quickly expanding self-serve nutritional smoothie stations in high schools, where the burger giant would never be welcome. McDonald's could also provide Jamba with seasoned experience in expanding Jamba's own food business.

It's a deal that makes sense, if only to make sure that Starbucks doesn't get Jamba first.

Beyond the Golden Arches
Naturally, this doesn't have to be limited to just McDonald's or Starbucks. Burger King Worldwide (NYSE: BKW  ) introduced smoothies earlier this year, and arming itself with the brand in the niche would help it catch up quickly.

This wouldn't be a stretch for Burger King. It's not beyond branded edibles on its menu, judging by the Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, Quaker oatmeal, and Hershey's Sundae pie that are there right now. Why license when you can own?

We also can't dismiss beverage companies in general. PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) has Tropicana. Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) has Minute Maid. Jamba has become a true wellness brand with its own ready-to-drink retail products.

A company that is also in a McDonald-esque situation is Monster Beverage (Nasdaq: MNST  ) . The largest energy drink company after Red Bull is coming under fire over the health risks of its adrenaline-boosting beverages. Jamba isn't stirring up any such controversy with its line of canned energy drinks. They feature 70% real fruit juice, 90 calories per serving, and have natural energy boosts. Snapping up Jamba would be a great way for Monster to clean up its image as it develops a fallback plan in case the backlash against carbonated energy drinks intensifies.

Jamba doesn't need a suitor. It's rolling these days, coming off eight straight quarters of positive store-level comps.

However, it wouldn't be a surprise if suitors still come calling.

Why wait until next November?

What's brewing
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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 16, 2012, at 4:17 PM, Rustyogrady wrote:

    The canned energy drink Jamba makes is made from green tea which is a natural antitoxin, unlike Starbucks that is made from the green coffee bean.For what it is worth,this is huge in the "wellness" department!

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