Say goodbye to Starbucks gluten-free cake

You might have already heard that Starbucks is discontinuing the gluten-free Valencia Orange cake it started carrying with fanfare about two months ago.
But we have details about the decision from Lisa Passe, a Starbucks spokesperson.

Passe said the cakes were not selling well even though most customers said they liked the taste. She said the word was that the cake was “delicious but very much a treat.”

I took that to mean it was too fattening. The cake has 16 grams of fat and 290 calories. “It was not something people wanted to have every day,” Passe explained.

Stores that still have the cake in stock will continue selling it until it’s gone, so availability will be spotty and short-lived. In fact, Passe said the decision to discontinue the product is so recent that individual stores have not yet been informed of the corporate decision to stop offering it.

Passe was quick to point out that Starbucks has begun selling the KIND bar, a prepackaged gluten-free fruit and nut bar. She said it has “snackability and is a grab-and-go kind of bar.”

KIND was chosen the best healthy snack by Health magazine and is made by a company that gives 5 percent of its profit to a foundation that promotes peace in the Middle East.

While the KIND bar might be a great addition to Starbucks’ gluten-free selection, I think it’s a disappointing substitute for a real baked good to go with the famously strong coffee. It’s easy for someone following the gluten-free diet to keep any bar in their pocket or purse. It’s something altogether different to be able to purchase a small and tasty piece of cake. To me, the bar is just not as exciting as the cake, even if it is healthier and has snackability.

If Starbucks anticipated that any given customer was going to have a Valencia cake a day, I think the market research was off. I doubt there are very many customers that eat any of Starbucks gluten-containing treats every day.
But the reality is there are enough customers eating the regular cookies and cakes to keep them moving out of the bakery case. If gluten-free customers were not buying the Valencia cake in large enough numbers to do the same, the cake was certainly going to meet this fate. No gluten-free food will survive if it’s not financially successful so it probably makes sense to develop one that is popular with both the gluten-eating and gluten-free customer.

Passe said the company, which did try with the cake, is committed to offering some kind of product that is gluten-free. And poor sales of the Valencia cake would not stop the company from offering another type of gluten-free baked good in the future, she noted.

In fact, in face of my obvious unhappiness about this news, she asked me what I would like to see. I suggested a gluten-free brownie, cookies or a cupcake – something a little less moist than the Valencia cake. We have heard that the cake was sometimes moldy, though Passe said she was unaware of any problems with mold.

Starbucks recently announced a push to use more healthy whole grains. We all know there are a number of gluten-free whole grains that make delicious muffins and breads. In fact, banana walnut bread is one of Starbucks new items. It should be easy to develop a you-can’t-tell-it’s-gluten-free banana walnut bread!

Let us know what kind of baked good you would like to see – and be likely to buy frequently – at Starbucks. It would be nice if the coffee house from Seattle decided to offer two gluten-free items – the KIND bar and something from the oven.

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