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Starbucks Launches Holiday Drinks, Green Cup

By Daniel B. Kline – Nov 2, 2016 at 6:35AM

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Say goodbye to the Pumpkin Spice Latte and welcome some traditional Christmas favorites along with a new cup that might be an attempt to dodge controversy.

The weather's getting colder and Starbucks (SBUX 1.17%) has shelved its most popular seasonal beverage, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL), in favor of its holiday lineup.

It's not an entirely abrupt shift for customers as the company stops selling its fall beverages as supplies run out. That means that some stores will still have the PSL for a few more days while others ran out of the popular drink before its official off-the-menu date.

While some will lament the loss of the PSL and the company's other fall beverages, others welcome the return of the traditional winter lineup. The 2016 "holiday handcrafted beverages," as the chain calls them, includes the returning Chestnut Praline Latte, Caramel Brulée Latte, Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, and the Peppermint Mocha. The winter lineup does not offer anything new.

Starbucks has brought back its traditional holiday lineup. Image source: Starbucks.

Another cup controversy?

The company's holiday line came with controversy in 2015 when it dropped traditional Christmas symbols from its red holiday cups, opting for a minimalist design. Some saw that as an insult to Christians. Starbucks denied those allegations, with Vice President of Design & Content Jeffrey Fields explaining that the 2015 design was inspired by customers doodling on cups in the past. He explained in a press release that the goal was to create a blank canvas.

"This year we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories," said Fields, who explained that the chain wanted to create "a culture of belonging," noting that "inclusion and diversity" is one of its core values.

This year, Starbucks won't be releasing its red holiday cups until Nov. 10. The company has not commented on the design for those cups, but pictures have been leaked with showing what is purported to be the 2016 red cup described on that site as featuring "a bird and foliage that looks like it was sketched out with white chalk on the classic red cup."

Red cup soon; green cup first

The chain has not confirmed the design of the 2016 holiday cup, but it has released a special green cup along with its seasonal winter beverages. This limited-time design shows "a mosaic of more than a hundred people drawn in one continuous stroke. ... The green cup and the design represent the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners (employees) and customers. During a divisive time in our country, Starbucks wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values, and the need to be good to each other," said CEO Howard Schultz in a press release.

The new green cup will be offered for a limited time. Image source: Starbucks.

It's all about the drinks

While the company's cups have been controversial, the real news is the return of the chain's second-most popular seasonal beverage lineup. Like the PSL, these drinks return once a year, sparking customers who might have opted for a more basic beverage to splurge on a more-indulgent latte or mocha. The Chestnut Praline Latte, Caramel Brulée Latte, Gingerbread Latte, Eggnog Latte, and Peppermint Mocha will be available through the end of the year, but like the fall beverages they will become unavailable as supplies run out. Starbucks' winter lineup may not be quite as beloved as its fall offering, but it should still drive traffic to its stores. And while it might seem a bit early for drinks associated with the Christmas season, falling temperatures may soon have people giving up thoughts of pumpkin for visions of snowmen, Santa, and other winter images.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He is going to Starbucks to have a Caramel Brulée Latte as soon as this is done. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Starbucks. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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