Starbucks shows muscle with Hint, Seattle’s Best

Starbucks, something of a sleeper force in the RTD beverage arena, is adding Hint Water to its coolers and debuting a new line of its own RTD drinks.

The coffee chain giant announced it will roll out a line of Seattle’s Best-branded lattes with distribution through its partnership with PepsiCo. The new line, with Iced Latte, Iced Vanilla Latte and Iced Mocha flavors, will retail at a suggested price $1.49 per can or $4.99 per 4-pack, a discount proposition when compared to Starbucks’ bottled Frappucinos.

The chain also recently nudged the fates of a handful of brands through its in-store coolers. Hint, Inc. announced that the retailer will stock Hint Blackberry essence water in the U.S. and Canada starting in March. Starbucks also dropped Dry soda in December after a test in Seattle.

The decisions come at a time when Starbucks appears to be reevaluating its in-store RTD plans. According to Beverage Business Insights, Starbucks’ board decided late last year to end a plan that would have placed several coolers of innovative beverages in each of 1,000 stores, saying that it would undermine the chain’s all-about-coffee image.

In the past, the company has proved to be a powerful force for the brands it touches. Jones Soda Co.’s rapid rise was fueled, partially at least, by a distribution agreement with the coffee chain, and rapidly fell from grace when Starbucks discontinued the brand. Starbucks also serves as a major outlet for niche PepsiCo Inc. properties including IZZE.