Starbucks trades in fair-trade for 'Shared Planet': Worth your money?

Starbucks' announcement today that it was launching its own fairly-traded coffee label, "Shared Planet," had me buzzing. My favorite coffee roaster is a local company called Stumptown Coffee, and one of the reasons I love the coffee so much is that I can trust the business' founder to deal fairly with the suppliers. He travels to every country from which the beans come, often tasting each batch himself, and is famous for having paid the highest price ever for an especially eloquent crop of beans. I know Starbucks works hard to pay more for coffee than other coffee big boys -- Folgers and Maxwell House come to mind -- but the average price the coffee giant pays, $1.42 a pound, is probably about a third of Stumptown's price.

Interestingly, Starbucks is still quoting that $1.42/pound, the average price from 2006. It appears that 2007 and 2008 have been lower, as worldwide commodity prices have decreased, but Starbucks has stopped talking price (even its SEC filings are mum on unit pricing). The company is dropping the talks of dollars and cents and is now controlling the messaging around its coffees.


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