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Starbucks starts selling soda because Starbucks wants to sell you everything

Starbucks wants to get bigger and bigger and bigger. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Starbucks announced that as of Tuesday, it would begin selling “handcrafted sodas.” These “Fizzio” sodas are being marketed as something different and superior to regular soda — no artificial flavors! no preservatives! no high fructose corn syrup! — but what the company is really selling is a promise that they can sell you any drink (to go with a variety of food options) you could possibly desire.

The soda news follows the coffee giant’s announcement earlier this year that it would begin selling beer and wine at thousands of stores. And that, in turn, followed the “Starbucks Evening” menu, which paired alcoholic drinks with flatbreads, chicken skewers and desserts.

Why does Starbucks — a ubiquity with more than 19,000 locations worldwide, a commercial giant that earned $14.9 billion in revenue last year — need to sell you chicken skewers or sodas? Because of growth, of course. Starbucks needs to maintain growth, and to do that it needs to “carefully expand our products and expertise into new channels, brands, and markets,” shareholders were told in last year’s annual report. So Starbucks will sell coffee and it will sell pastries and it will also sell beer, wine and “handcrafted sodas.” (A “tall” soda will cost $2.45, more than a tall coffee.)

This is a part of the chain’s larger ambition to become the so-called “Third Place” (the location where you go when you’re not at home or at work). As we discussed when the company started selling booze, this means reaching people at times and with products that they would not otherwise get at Starbucks. A person getting off of work may not want coffee, but they may want beer or wine; a person may not want coffee, beer or wine, but it’s entirely possible they could go for a spiced root beer or a ginger ale.

Starbucks trademarked the name “Fizzio” last year after it started selling some of these sodas in Austin and Atlanta. The sodas aren’t a nationwide thing yet, though. So far, the sodas are only going to be available in 16 states: Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Utah and portions of southern California.

Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.
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