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    Starbucks and Hershey Launching Premium Chocolate Platform

    SEATTLE and HERSHEY, Pa. -- If you like your coffee with chocolate, you'll love the new initiative planned by Starbucks Coffee Co. and the Hershey Co. The two companies have inked a development and distribution agreement designed to "help transform the premium chocolate segment," with a new Starbucks-branded premium chocolate platform that will hit the U.S. market starting this fall.

    SEATTLE and HERSHEY, Pa. -- If you like your coffee with chocolate, you'll love the new initiative planned by Starbucks Coffee Co. and the Hershey Co. The two companies have inked a development and distribution agreement designed to "help transform the premium chocolate segment," with a new Starbucks-branded premium chocolate platform that will hit the U.S. market starting this fall.

    "Chocolate is the perfect complement to coffee and tea, and has long been a part of the coffee-house experience," said Gerry Lopez, president, Starbucks Global Consumer Products Group, in a statement. "Creating a new chocolate platform is another way for us to extend the Starbucks experience outside of our stores and enhances the coffeehouse experience."

    Expert chocolatiers are developing products that translate Starbucks coffeehouse flavors into delicious and distinct chocolate products, the companies said. The premium platform will combine high-quality chocolate with Starbucks beverages and cafe flavors, as well as fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices. In addition to innovative flavors, this platform will offer new forms and packaging, and will be available in a broad range of retail channels such as food, drug, and mass merchandise outlets across the United States.

    The alliance will draw on the expertise of Artisan Confections Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hershey. Artisan Confections' portfolio consists of some of the world's finest chocolate, including Scharffen Berger and Joseph Schmidt truffles.

    "Hershey's chocolate expertise, distribution, and selling capabilities, combined with the strength of the Starbucks brand, will help transform the high-growth premium chocolate segment," said Christopher J. Baldwin, s.v.p., president North American Commercial Group, the Hershey Co. "Our product development is focused on value-added chocolate and coffee-based products that will provide consumers with a new experience and accelerate growth in this key segment."

    Starbucks and Hershey added that both companies "share a passion and focus to purchase cocoa that is socially responsible, economically viable, ecologically sustainable, and meets specific quality standards."

    Hershey has cocoa sourcing guidelines and supports organizations such as the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) and the International Foundation for Education & Self Help (IFESH). Both Starbucks and Hershey support the World Cocoa Foundation.

    Starbucks has recently developed its Cocoa Practices Guidelines and Scorecard, which are being piloted for a two-year period beginning June 1, 2007.

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