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Starbucks, Unilever sign licensing agreement to grow ice cream business

September 17, 2008
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Starbucks Coffee Co. and Unilever have announced an exclusive licensing agreement for the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of Starbucks ice cream in the United States and Canada. The agreement leverages Starbucks coffee expertise and passion for innovation and Unilever’s capabilities as the leading global manufacturer and marketer of ice cream, strengthening the companies’ superpremium positions in the more than $17 billion ice cream category in the United States and Canada.

“Unilever’s industry-leading innovation and commitment to social responsibility with brands like Ben & Jerry’s are well-aligned with our values and vision for the business,” said Gerry Lopez, president, Starbucks Global Consumer Products, Starbucks Foodservice and Seattle’s Best Coffee. “This relationship will enable us to introduce exciting new products and extend the Starbucks Experience to a larger base of consumers.”

Starbucks ice cream was first introduced in 1996, at which time it quickly became a leading brand of coffee ice cream in the United States. Starbucks ice cream is made with only high-quality arabica coffee, purchased and roasted in accordance with Starbucks stringent standards. The company proudly offers a variety of other coffee-related products to consumers around the world through grocery, convenience and other retail channels. These products include bottled Starbucks Frappuccino beverages, Starbucks Doubleshot drinks, Starbucks Discoveries chilled cup coffees, Starbucks Liqueurs, Starbucks Chocolate and a complete line of packaged coffees.

Starbucks-branded ice cream was formerly made by Oakland, Calif.-based Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream.

In addition to Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever’s iconic ice cream brands in North America include Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike and Popsicle. For Starbucks ice cream, Unilever will employ its world-class research & development and creative resources to produce super-premium ice cream innovations inspired by Starbucks coffee and classic coffeehouse flavors.

“Ice cream is a core strategic category for Unilever, generating more than $6 billion in annual sales for us globally,” said Peter Ter Kulve, Unilever senior vice president, Global Ice Cream. “Starbucks is recognized around the world for its high-quality coffee and innovative approach to products, and thus Starbucks-branded superpremium ice cream is a perfect complement to our portfolio. We look forward to working together to deliver a signature and unparalleled frozen dessert experience to consumers.”

The companies’ ice cream licensing agreement builds upon an existing relationship for the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of Starbucks Tazo ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, which was announced last month. Starbucks and the Pepsi/Lipton Tea Partnership (PLP), a joint venture between Unilever and PepsiCo, signed a licensing agreement to manage the product line.

“We are excited that Starbucks has chosen to extend and deepen its partnership with Unilever,” said James Wong, vice president, business development, Unilever Americas. “Further strengthening this collaboration allows us the opportunity to gain additional momentum in our North American ice cream business, building on our superior global scale and experience.”

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