Acquisitions in focus at Starbucks' investor meeting

PHOTO: Acquisitions in focus at Starbucks' investor meeting

Starbucks Corp is expected to outline plans to turn recent juice, tea and bakery acquisitions into bigger profits for its non-coffee operations at an investor conference in New York on Wednesday.

The company could also announce changes to its UK tax policies, after criticism from lawmakers and the media over strategies that let it minimize payments.

Seattle-based Starbucks, the world's largest coffee chain, aims to expand its reach beyond coffee and the four walls of its own cafes. Its purchases of Evolution Fresh, for $30 million in November 2011, and Bay Bread LLC's La Boulange Bakery, for $100 million in July, are part of that plan.

Analysts expect executives to lay out their strategy for expanding sales of Evolution Fresh bottled juices via Starbucks cafes and other retailers. Some predicted that Starbucks would also accelerate its roll-out of pastries and other goodies from La Boulange, a popular San Francisco-area bakery.

Food has long been a weak link at Starbucks, which previously said it would have La Boulange products in 2,500 of its company-operated US shops beginning this spring.

Starbucks will be tighter-lipped when it comes to Teavana Holdings, since it has yet to close its $620 million purchase of the 300-store chain, which sells loose-leaf, exotic teas.

Starbucks already said it plans to add "tea bars" to existing Teavana stores. The goal is to replicate the success it had adding coffee drinks to the menu at its early Starbucks stores, which sold whole bean coffee.

"There is always a risk when you take on all these brands,"said Bernstein Research Sara Senatore, who added that Starbucks mitigated that risk by making deals that fit specifically with its long-term growth plans.

Analysts also are looking for an update on sales of Starbucks' new at-home Verismo coffee and espresso brewer, which aims to grab a piece of the fast-growing single-serve market dominated by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc and Nestle SA.

The UK tax question is also likely to come up, given the pressure the company has faced of late. Starbucks said on Sunday that it was considering changes to its UK tax practices, while repeating that it had always complied with British tax laws.

It said it would release more details on the matter this week.