Thursday 03 May, 2012

Inside Starbucks’ Evolution: Pics

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The opening of Starbucks' first Evolution Fresh retail store got a lot of business press attention earlier this year. But I hadn't seen any coverage of the actual pilot store before I got a chance to visit it a few weeks ago in the somewhat high-end Bellevue Square Mall (in Bellevue, Washington, the Eastern suburb of Seattle which has lately exploded with luxury amenities for the Microsoft folks).

Perhaps that's because, according to my local friend, someone with a camera was chased out of the store just the day prior. Luckily, I'm Mr. Lowkey with a cameraphone, so I got these shots.

Anyway, what would they be hiding? Evolution Fresh was originally created as a juice company by Jimmy Rosenberg in the '90s, after he sold his original company, which you may have heard of, Naked Juice (founded in the '80s; Naked is now owned by PepsiCo, btw). Two years ago, Rosenberg invested in a process called High Pressure Processing, "cold" Pasteurization which allows juice to stay fresh in the bottle for up to 40 days, without killing off the vitamins and nutrients.

Starbucks bought Rosenberg's company late last year, and apparently wasted no time in reconceiving it as more than a supermarket shelf brand.

Other than perhaps the huge videoscreen wall menu, though, nothing is really very radical about Evolution Fresh's concept. It's just perhaps better executed than most. On one wall is the juice bar, where "juice tenders" serve several juices on tap–no kidding–and also take orders for a fairly extensive list of "handcrafted" juice blends (Green Julep has greens, pineapple, apple and mint; Sweet Burn combines coconut water, pineapple, apple, beet, cayenne and ginger) and smoothies. You can also add granola and banana to a smoothie for a sort of sundae, I guess.

I ordered the Smooth Berrybeet (beet, apple juices, strawberries, blueberries) because I figured I could use as much cleansing and antioxidizing as possible. It had a slightly earthy note from the beets, but with your eyes closed, wasn't far from a typical Slurpee. Really.

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On the perpendicular wall, separated by a cold case of pre-packaged juices and food to go, was a salad/soup/sandwich bar that looked about as good as the best places you see in Midtown Manhattan of this nature. Again, it's a pretty decent variety, with nutritional value on everything displayed. Someone shoved a sample of the Farmers Garden salad into my hands: it was a nice well-made salad, perhaps comparable to Whole Foods, but just a notch fresher.

SEE THE FULL STORE MENU HERE

The big news about this is, of course, that it's Starbucks. Which means this could be EVERYWHERE pretty much as soon as they want it to be. I'm told unofficially that the company wants to keep the brand entirely independent of Starbucks however (other than their serving Pike Place Roast). Whether that means they will carve new spaces out of existing Starbucks locations or open up in totally different spots remains to be seen.

Prices range from $4.99 to 7.99 for the beverages; virtually all the food stays well under $10. While my local friend thought the prices seemed a bit high, I think if they can stay close to these numbers in other locales, and source the same quality, they offer good value. Of course, the places that could really use something like this are airports, but they'll surely be more expensive there.

You can find the bottled Evolution Fresh juices at a number of West Coast retailers, the most obvious being Whole Foods and Pavillions. I would expect to see that presence expanding as well. For now, if you happen to be in Bellevue, don't miss it.

Evolution Fresh
(425) 453-1089


Comments

  1. I work across the street from Evolution in Bellevue, and have been eating there enough to be recognized by the staff. It’s quality stuff … not rave-worthy, but enjoyable.

    It’s much more mainstream say that a place like Las Vegas’ Go Raw Cafe … even Evolution’s tuna salad/kale wrap is less gnarly than what a true hippie joint would offer. This place is more business class/tennis wives … with a price point to match.

    Yet I keep coming back once a week or so. And, on a side note: I took a paparazzo photo of CEO Howard Schultz eating in there a few weeks ago. I’m into entrepreneurism.