Starbucks reveals ambitious store growth plans fuelled by tech and cold brew coffee

Starbucks is expanding in China at a rate of more than one new store per day

Starbucks is placing tech at the centre of its ambitious growth plans as the coffee giant looks to open almost 50% more locations by 2021.

At an investor meeting yesterday (7 December), the company’s senior figures, including chief executive Howard Schultz, revealed plans to open around 12,000 new stores by 2021, bringing its total to roughly 37,000.

The growth will be driven by enticing more customers with new products, store formats and technology, including offering members of its rewards program the ability to speak or message their orders into their mobile phones.

Expanding its cold drinks and special dietary foods will also play a major part. Starbucks expects cold drinks to account for 50% of its sales in the future, up from 35% currently. The increase can be attributed to more than just iced coffee and frappuccinos though, cold brew and nitro cold brew have grown in popularity and will be rolled out globally.

In addition, Starbucks has made a number of partnerships to help grow its cold drinks business . A joint venture with AB InBev was announced earlier this year and will see bottled Teavana Craft Teas released in February. The company also partnered with PepsiCo to bring bottled frappuccino to parts of Latin America.

Wheat-free and gluten-free breakfast foods will feature more prominently going forward too with plans to launch Sous Vide Egg Bites, which are wheat-free and low in calories. A certified gluten-free breakfast sandwich is also expected to launch in spring.

China remains a major focus for the company where the rate of new stores opening currently exceeds more than one per day. Schultz announced plans to open more than 5,000 shops, adding to the 2,500 that are currently open.

Tech will also play a major role in the expansion plans in the region through partnerships with the likes of Tencent Holdings which will allow patrons to send Starbucks gifts through the popular WeChat messaging app.

The coffee giant's ambitious store growth plans come after a year of slower growth at its longstanding locations. Global same-store sales rose 5% in fiscal 2016, with the number of transactions up just 1%. A year earlier, same-store sales were up 7%, with transactions up 3%.

Last week, Schultz said he would hand the chief executive role to chief operating officer, Kevin Johnson, in April but would stay on in an executive chairman role, working on projects such as the company's Roasteries and Reserve stores.

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