Will consumers line up for a taste of Starbucks' "Oprah Chai"?

Starbucks (SBUX) shareholders attending their annual meeting Wednesday got a big surprise -- a visit from TV mega-mogul Oprah Winfrey.

The talk show queen was introduced by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to announce she was partnering with the coffee company to launch a product called "Teavana Oprah Chai".

The special tea blend, developed with Oprah's direct input, will be available in Starbucks and Teavana stores starting late April in the U.S. and Canada. Part of the proceeds from each sale will go towards Winfrey's Leadership Academy Foundation.

"I looove tea," Winfrey said in a Starbucks statement. "To share one of my favorite things with the rest of the world and support youth education at the same time is truly the perfect blend."

"It's a brilliant move by both Oprah and Starbucks, teaming up together," said retail analyst Burt Flickinger with the Strategic Research Group. "Oprah has more consumer credibility than anybody in the business with people across America. It's going to be a grand slam for Starbucks as well as for Oprah."

"You'll see a sustainable increase in both customer counts and ongoing sales, which should accelerate over time," Flickinger said.

Meanwhile, consumer trend analyst Britt Beemer, chairman and CEO of America's Research Group, said that while he thinks this is a smart move for both Oprah and Starbucks, he doesn't expect Starbucks stores to be overrun by Oprah fans.

"I think it's going to be a plus, but I don't think it's going to be a big plus," he said. "I would say that if they got a five to six percent lift in sales, that would probably be the max they could expect from it."

Beemer said, while Oprah is still very popular, she does not carry the cache she once had when she hosted a top-rated talk show. "She no longer has that exposure," he said.

Flickinger said he thinks Oprah fans will still respond. "She does have loyal viewership that's still unprecedented and really unparalleled in media today."

He said the marriage between Winfrey and Starbucks just makes sense. "Starbucks like Oprah has a long, well-deserved reputation for institutional integrity, for standing up for what the company believes is right for individuals -- paying health care benefits, better wages, better working environment," he said. "And Oprah believes in doing what is right in every possible area that she can. In terms of institutional ethics and integrity, it's a very strong collective compliment to one another -- Oprah and Starbucks."
  • Aliah Git

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