(USA Today) -- Starbucks is eking its way into Whole Foods.
Not with cafes - or even bagged coffee, mind you - but with its recently purchased brand of better-for-you juices, Evolution Fresh, that will be sold at all Whole Foods Market stores nationally. The natural-food giant also will sell the Evolution Harvest line of snack bars, fruit bars and trail mixes.
For Starbucks, it's one big step in its march to become a consumer product giant - far afield from its coffee shops. For Whole Foods, it's a chance to link up and grow along with a retail soul mate whose customer base looks and feels strikingly similar. And for the Starbucks-owned Evolution brand, it's a unique opportunity to emerge from a little-known brand into high profile product sold by the nation's organic and natural foods powerhouse.
"Evolution Fresh gets the endorsement of a taste-maker for health-conscious consumers," notes David Vinjamuri, president of ThirdWay Brand Trainers, a consulting firm. "Whole Foods is, perhaps, the only mainstream retailer that can pass along the high price points of the Evolution Fresh line," he says.
That price: $2.99 to $6.99 for a 15.2-ounce bottle of juice. That 's certainly pricey, but some brands of superpremium fresh juices can cost even a buck or two more. "We're trying to make the category more accessible," says Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator at Whole Foods.
Unlike many competitors in the $1.6 billion superpremium juice category, the Evolution Fresh brand is not heated when it's bottled, but instead bottled with an ultra-high-pressure technology that helps to retain the vitamins of the fruits and vegetables.
Whole Foods will carry 14 different Evolution Fresh flavors - including two that are unique to the chain: Organic Ruby Roots vegetable juice and Organic Sweet Burn hydration juice.
A bottle of Evolution Fresh vegetable juice is made with more than 2 pounds of produce, notes Chris Bruzzo, senior vice president and general manager of the Starbucks-owned Evolution Fresh brand.
It's a natural to carry a Starbucks-owned product at Whole Foods, says Schweizer, because Starbucks and Whole Foods "have a shared culture in terms of values, transparency and openness to change."
Ah, but would Whole Foods ever carry Starbucks coffee - or even allow Starbucks coffee shops to open inside Whole Foods markets?
"I can't speak directly to that," says Schweizer of Whole Foods.
Bruzzo attempts to clarify. "We are not actively engaged with Whole Foods around coffee," he says.
But that doesn't eliminate other products, says Schweizer, because Starbucks and its Evolution Fresh brand "will keep putting out more great products." So, in the future, he predicts, "I see a lot more products together."