Thursday, July 16, 2009

Say goodbye to Starbucks gluten-free cake

You might have already heard that Starbucks is discontinuing the gluten-free Valencia Orange cake it started carrying with fanfare about two months ago.
But we have details about the decision from Lisa Passe, a Starbucks spokesperson.
Passe said the cakes were not selling well even though most customers said they liked the taste. She said the word was that the cake was "delicious but very much a treat."
I took that to mean it was too fattening. The cake has 16 grams of fat and 290 calories. "It was not something people wanted to have every day," Passe explained.
Stores that still have the cake in stock will continue selling it until it's gone, so availability will be spotty and short-lived. In fact, Passe said the decision to discontinue the product is so recent that individual stores have not yet been informed of the corporate decision to stop offering it.
Passe was quick to point out that Starbucks has begun selling the KIND bar, a prepackaged gluten-free fruit and nut bar. She said it has "snackability and is a grab-and-go kind of bar."
KIND was chosen the best healthy snack by Health magazine and is made by a company that gives 5 percent of its profit to a foundation that promotes peace in the Middle East.
While the KIND bar might be a great addition to Starbucks' gluten-free selection, I think it's a disappointing substitute for a real baked good to go with the famously strong coffee. It's easy for someone following the gluten-free diet to keep any bar in their pocket or purse. It's something altogether different to be able to purchase a small and tasty piece of cake. To me, the bar is just not as exciting as the cake, even if it is healthier and has snackability.
If Starbucks anticipated that any given customer was going to have a Valencia cake a day, I think the market research was off. I doubt there are very many customers that eat any of Starbucks gluten-containing treats every day.
But the reality is there are enough customers eating the regular cookies and cakes to keep them moving out of the bakery case. If gluten-free customers were not buying the Valencia cake in large enough numbers to do the same, the cake was certainly going to meet this fate. No gluten-free food will survive if it's not financially successful so it probably makes sense to develop one that is popular with both the gluten-eating and gluten-free customer.
Passe said the company, which did try with the cake, is committed to offering some kind of product that is gluten-free. And poor sales of the Valencia cake would not stop the company from offering another type of gluten-free baked good in the future, she noted.
In fact, in face of my obvious unhappiness about this news, she asked me what I would like to see. I suggested a gluten-free brownie, cookies or a cupcake - something a little less moist than the Valencia cake. We have heard that the cake was sometimes moldy, though Passe said she was unaware of any problems with mold.
Starbucks recently announced a push to use more healthy whole grains. We all know there are a number of gluten-free whole grains that make delicious muffins and breads. In fact, banana walnut bread is one of Starbucks new items. It should be easy to develop a you-can't-tell-it's-gluten-free banana walnut bread!
Let us know what kind of baked good you would like to see - and be likely to buy frequently - at Starbucks. It would be nice if the coffee house from Seattle decided to offer two gluten-free items - the KIND bar and something from the oven.
Amy

13 comments:

Jean F said...

So while Starbucks non-celiac customers get to chow down on Lemon Pound Cake, the neurotic, orthorexic celiacs have to make do with something "healthy". Its not like we want or deserve a nice treat like normal people.

dancingrabbits said...

I certainly don't want Starbucks to completely give up offering GF products. We all know the secret is in the packing and marketing!

I love the Valencia orange cake - but AS A TREAT!

Starbucks has the data on the ratio between coffee-only orders and coffee-pastry orders. GF is going to be a fraction of overall coffee-pastry sales largely because public awareness of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity remains low (growing, yes).

And I'm sure they could also see where in the country the GF cake sold better. I'm sure there were more sales in certain areas of L.A. than in Las Vegas.

I certainly hope Starbucks doesn't give up on baked GF items like cookies, cakes and scones.

Jean F said...

I still do not understand why they did not market a gluten free brownie or flourless chocolate cake-those are cheap to produce and would appeal to both their celiac and non celiac markets. A flourless chocolate cake in a cute litte plastic dome? Can't you just see it sitting in the pastry section...

Lynn said...

Yes,gluten free brownies and flourless chocolate cake are wonderful choices but the bottom line is that all of these things are not supposed to be consumed every day. I do eat pretty healthy but when I want a treat, I have one. People who do not have gluten sensitivity are not very like to purchase gluten free foods so of course there was a limited market. RIP Valencia Orange Cake you will be missed.

Eileen said...

My celiac finace' and I tried several (more than 10) times to get one of these at two of the Starbucks here in Augusta, GA. Neither ever had it, and on about half the attempts none of the associates in that store even knew what we were talking about. It's pretty hard to buy something that's not available!

csiggia said...

I'm sorry to hear that Starbucks is discontinuing the Orange Velencia Cake. When going to Starbucks with my coworkers it was nice to be able to enjoy a dessert with my coffee, instead of just sitting there watching everyone else enjoy their treats. As the article suggests, I did have a problem with mold when I didn't eat the cake within two days of purchasing it, but if you ate it the same day, there was no problem. The bar doesn't cut it, I can get that at any health food store, the Cake was a treat. I wish Starbucks would offer either a Gluten Free cupcake, brownie or coffee cake. With the amount of people eating Gluten Free these days, I don't understand why this is still such a problem!

Susan said...

Thank you for the disappointing news....I just consumed what will probably be my last GFree Sbucks cake. I'm devistated! Does anyone know if the Banana Chocolate Vivanno is GFree?

Elizabeth said...

So that's why the Starbucks guy looked so confused when I asked for a Valencia Cake today! It was definitely one of the best prepared gf products I've ever purchased.

Cherie said...

Starbucks needs to check with a new company-Carlee's Gluten Free in Tulsa. Great pumpkin rolls and cookies that taste and look "real"!

Gluten free in Wichita said...

I would like a blueberry muffin. That is something people could have every morning or snack time with a coffee.

Liz said...

Completely agree with Eileen. I got one cake once at my mall Starbucks. Efforts to find it at standalone stores anywhere in Florida or even in the Dallas / Fort Worth airport ended with confused looks and "But we have chocolate cake!" smiles. I was also told by employees that the cakes were gross. I thought they were pretty good and definitely a nice different taste instead of a gluten free brownie (something I never really love).

I think they shipped these ONCE period which is nowhere near enough time for celiacs who liked it to come back and have more! I, by the way, never looked at the calorie content, as I was already actively ignoring the calorie count in my frozen drink.

Priscilla said...

That just stinks. I really wanted a GF treat today.. I have a date at starbucks. :(

shin_sekai said...

maybe the reason it didn't do well has more to do with it being orange. i am sensitive to gluten, and if a piece of orange cake were the only thing offered to me, i would probably eat it, but i would much prefer something chocolate, caramel, or vanilla. those are classics that i think have a much broader market. maybe this is a 'duh' idea, but why don't they take the most popular pastry/cake they sell and do a gluten-free version or something that has a similar taste.