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Wake-up call: Starbucks to post calorie counts on menus

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | 4:30 p.m. CDT; updated 5:22 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NEW YORK — Starbucks has a new way to wake up its customers: showing the calories in its drinks.

The Seattle coffee chain says it will start posting calorie counts on menu boards nationwide next week, ahead of a federal regulation that would require it to do so.

Calorie counts on menus are already required in some parts of the country, including New York City.

But starting June 25, Starbucks Corp. says customers at its more than 11,000 U.S. locations will be able to see that there are 300 calories in a small caramel Frappuccino and 230 calories in a small Iced Caffe Mocha.

Pastry cases will also show calorie information, in case customers want to save some calories and opt for a Morning Bun (350 calories) instead of a blueberry scone (460 calories).

The move by Starbucks comes as the Food and Drug Administration irons out the details of a regulation that would require companies with more than 20 locations to post calorie information on their menus. Other chains including McDonald's Corp. have also moved ahead with posting the information, saying they're providing it to be more transparent rather than because they're being forced to.

In its announcement, Starbucks highlighted the various steps it has taken over the years to give customers choices, such as adding sugar-free syrup in 1997 and making 2 percent milk the standard for core beverages in North America in 2007.

The company notes that it already provides nutrition information on its website, through its iPhone app and with printed brochures in cafes. It also says there are numerous ways people can reduce the calories in their drinks, such as by asking for non-fat milk, sugar-free syrup or no whipped cream.

A representative for the company did not know what percentage of customers ask to have their drinks customized.

It's not clear how posted calorie counts affect what people choose to order. But in announcing its plans to post calorie information nationwide last year, the head of McDonald's USA at the time said that providing the information doesn't really change the company's overall menu mix.

While a few national chains already put calorie information on their menus, a "large majority" are waiting for the FDA to issue its final guidelines, according to Sue Hensley, a spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association.

The group expects the regulation to take effect by sometime next year.


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