Better Starbucks Food Can't Come Soon Enough

As Starbucks started hitting troubles even before the economy last year, Howard Schultz, back at the fore, announced as if it were a done deal that the embarrassingly sawdust-y baked goods would be first to go--and to get better. I was heartened. Even if you're not supposed to think about the "and' in the "coffee and" when you're a serious coffee man, you'd like a nice choice--especially if you believe that baked goods should make up an extremely imbalanced portion of the daily diet.

Alas. The profusion of locally baked muffins and scones I expected to proliferate across the land failed to appear. Just the same sawdust, from airport to airport and mall to mall. The company was too busy retraining baristas and installing single-brew Clover machines, and not removing the breakfast foods that were also part of the Schultz vows to think about baked goods.

Lost sales have a way of focusing the mind, and so, I would think, do calorie-labeling laws like New York's and the many other states, like California and Massachusetts, whose own requirements will soon kick in and show people that, for instance, a doughnut often has fewer calories than a muffin or cookie. Okay--I'll have the doughnut!

So now Starbucks will, it says, reformulate 90 percent of its baked goods, removing high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives where possible, and coming up with recipes that have tens rather than dozens of ingredients. "Food has been the Achilles' heel of the company," Michelle Gass in charge of marketing, told Reuters. Yes, ma'am!

She didn't say whether cookies and muffins will still be almost uniformly more than 400 calories or whether they will use local vendors where possible and allow them any latitude in thinking of what they'd like to make for the local market--or whether the flavor will improve. But there's 90 percent room for hope.