Melody reviews the new Starbucks oatmeal: Available January 3, 2013

Starbucks is giving their oatmeal a major overhaul!  I have already tried the new oatmeal, and I am definitely excited to write about it:  I genuinely like oatmeal.  Starbucks first introduced the Perfect Oatmeal into their food lineup September 3, 2008.  The oatmeal introduced in 2008 (and up until this change starting January 3rd) was made from rolled oats, and customers could have toppings which included brown sugar, dried fruit mix, and a nut medley (mostly almonds).

Starting January 3rd, the new Perfect Oatmeal will be a blend of rolled oats and steel-cut oats.  So here’s what the oatmeal itself will look like:


What’s new is that customers can now choose from two different toppings, each with a different combinations of good foods.

Hearty Blueberry:

The new topping combination is the “Hearty Blueberry,” and comes with a package of blueberries, a fruit and nut medley (dried figs, cranberries, pepitas, and almonds), and a package of agave syrup.  “Hearty Blueberry” toppings are a little more expensive than what’s currently offered.  I don’t recall exactly, but if a customer chooses the “Hearty Blueberry” combination of toppings, he or she will pay about a $1.00 more than what was paid before when buying the older version of the oatmeal.

During my tasting event, I learned that the new “Hearty Blueberry” option is fairly low calorie.  Agave syrup is a lower calorie option than the traditional brown sugar option.  The new oatmeal with the “Hearty Blueberry” toppings is about 280 calories.

I loved the new oats.  I thought the blueberries were amazing.  I am tickled pink to learn that they can be purchased separately for about $1.25.  I would love to experiment with throwing them in a vanilla bean Frappuccino in the summer.  Or, they might be wonderful in a smoothie too.

I realize that agave syrup is all the rage, and there are many customer requests for it on sites like  Having said that, it did nothing for me.  It wasn’t nearly as sweet as using traditional brown sugar.  I am behind the times.  Give me my brown sugar, and I’m happy.

I realize that I mentioned this before, but I think it is awesome that one can buy the blueberries separately!  I snacked on them during my tasting and I like the idea of being able to buy what essentially is a snack pack of blueberries:

Classic Oatmeal:

The other oatmeal option is the “Classic Oatmeal,” which comes with brown sugar, a nut medley, and a packet of mixed dried fruit.  The “Classic Oatmeal” is what customers are used to ordering now, and there is little change from its previous version.  The nut medley is new in the sense that it didn’t have pepitas in it before, so this won’t be exactly like the previous oatmeal toppings but it is indeed very close.

Here’s the new oatmeal with the “Classic” toppings mixed in:

Melody’s take on the new oatmeal:

I love it.  You can see the difference in the oat themselves.  The introduction of steel-cut oats is wonderful.  And I love the blueberries, and the many options that opens up!  I like the new nut medley as well.  I’m not a huge fan of agave syrup.

The new oatmeal launches tomorrow in Starbucks stores.  About 4,500 Starbucks stores in the U.S. are getting the “Hearty Blueberry” toppings.  There will be some U.S. stores that will only get the “Classic” toppings, as those stores are in the more remote markets.  And my understanding is that Canada is not getting the new “Hearty Blueberry” topping at all.

So what do you think?  I am excited to hear your reviews of the new oatmeal!

If you don’t recall what the old version of the oatmeal looked like, here’s a photo of it:

FTC required disclosure:

Since I did not pay for my two bowls of oatmeal, I think I have to make a required FTC disclosure.  Essentially, I went to the Starbucks headquarters and two nice PR staff members escorted me to a room that was set up with two bowls of oatmeal.  We drank Veranda Blend coffee with a pump of Vanilla syrup, and I ate oatmeal (two bowls of it!) and made small talk as the two nice PR people watched me eat.  All of this was courtesy of Starbucks.  I decided not to write about the Veranda Blend coffee since that blend doesn’t do much for me.  One of the two PR people had a wonderful Stella and Dot scarf, and if she’d brought in a Stella and Dot catalog, I might have been ordering jewelry/accessories as I ate. 😉  Don’t you think this is a great looking scarf?

And a good time was had by all.



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  • Drew

    Well, I gave the new oatmeal a shot for a week, but just can’t do it! I was a huge fan of the old perfect oatmeal… I purchased it daily. I agree with the previous comment that it is very soupy. At first, I thought it was because I wasn’t steeping it long enough…… So, I steeped for at least 5 minutes… didn’t help. I’m also not a fan of the taste, I’m not great at describing tastes, but “papery” comes to mind :) So, I bring my own now, and the store puts hot water in it for me. At least I’m saving money, but I do miss the old oatmeal!

  • denise r

    re: the oatmeal. I just received a $2.00 price for the oatmeal email from MSR when you buy any beverage. That’s a nice deal but it also means, to me, Sbux is realizing the problems that are happening with the oatmeal.

  • purple1

    Denise can totally agree with you and was thinking the same thing this morning as I ordered the new oatmeal with the promotion. Waited more than the suggested 5 mins and it was still soupy. The partner asked me if I wanted the old classic oatmeal.

  • Keith

    @denise r and purple 1

    The $2 oatmeal promotion has been planned since launch, I’ve noticed that a lot of people didn’t know there was a new oatmeal, or blueberries for that matter, asking each customer if they want to add an oatmeal for just $2 encourages people to try it. When they offer you “classic oatmeal” they mean the original oatmeal toppings (brown sugar, dried fruit, mixed nuts) – you’ll still get the new steel cut oats.

  • purple1

    I would think that if the oatmeal is bad and not any better than the old oatmeal, SB will have a problem promoting it. Certainly, you would think in their taste kitchens they have sampled and tasted different oatmeals before launching it to the public. Wonder if they will take it back and try to improve its quality? To me that would make sense!

  • Sara D

    @Melody I agree… to some customers 5 minutes seems long. It usually doesn’t even phase me that 5 minutes has passed when I come in and enjoy our oatmeal, simply because I have so many other things that I need to do at the same time. I can see the disappointment in waiting for so long for something and not being completely satisfied with it. You make an excellent point. I am going to try to prepare the oatmeal for our customers during the initial transaction, so that when they are waiting for their latte’ to be made, the wait is over by the time the customer takes his/her seat.
    @Drew it’s always a change when we move towards a healthy alternative to processed foods. Nothing ever seems to taste as good as it’s over salted, over sugared, or over worked counterpart. It takes more than a little getting use to. Please understand, we love our customers… so much that we’re revamping something so small as oatmeal to keep you your healthiest :) I would never turn down a customer who brings in their own oats and asks me to add hot water. I am so glad your baristas feel the same way. To each his own, but thank you for giving it a try :)

  • Drew

    @Sara D – While I’m sure there is truth to your “health alternative” and “we love your customers and want to keep them healthy” answer, I also know that Starbucks is a business, interested in making money. It seems to me that the raising of the cost of the new oatmeal was also a factor in changing the oatmeal. I also predict that WHEN the new oatmeal doesn’t meet sales expectations, Starbucks will discontinue it and bring back the old oatmeal. The bottom line and simple supply and demand will again win out in this situation. I’ll just have to wait it out :)

  • BB

    It is not as good as the original and they will charge a ton more when the sale is over.
    “Steel cut” means nothing nutritionally, but it is more chewy. And nobody knows how much water to use. “Let if sit” is the answer to “You’ve drowned my oatmeal.” Way too expensive. Go to McDs even.

  • Susan

    I tried the oatmeal two days ago under the $2 promotion. I had the same problem as several others in that mine did not absorb the water even after 8 minutes. The taste was also not very good. I hope they bring back the old oatmeal….and soon.

  • Keith

    There’s a lot of dislike of the oatmeal is being displayed here, I’m assuming that the vocal minority comes to a website to post about it. We’ve had very few complaints in store. Even customers that use steamed milk (not really hot enough to cook non-instant oats IMO) seem to enjoy the new Oatmeal.

    Everyone is especially excited about the blueberries because they are a perfectly executed addition to the oatmeal offering (the only dilema is there is no partner discount available and they can’t be “add-ons” to drinks – they are fantastic as smoothies).

    The oatmeal is at least twice as popular at my store now, but maybe it’s because of the weather were having right now in the Northeast.

  • Melody

    @Keith – I have to admit, I am somewhat baffled by it.

    One part of what you said relating to complaints in the store: Just generally speaking, most people don’t like to complain in a store, and it’s easier to say something in an online space than Face to Face. This is actually why some marketers take the belief that every complaint is a gift. For every comment on this site, and many others like it, 99% are lurkers, and there is always the silent majority that say nothing in the stores.

    Secondly – and now actually back to the topic of oatmeal – I am baffled. I really wonder what others are doing with their oatmeal. So today, like many days, I bought the new oatmeal. I picked it up at the Pine Street Starbucks, which is across the street from the Westlake bus tunnel entrance. I then went into the tunnel for my “commute” (which is short) from Westlake station to Pioneer Square station. Then walked to my office and ate my oatmeal. I have been meaning to time that but maybe it’s five to ten minutes from Starbucks to desk. By the time I sit down, it’s fully steeped, and sometimes even a little dry. Maybe 7 to 10 minutes steep time is ideal?

    From what I can see, given the “soupy” comments above, there must be one group of customers who just don’t want to wait for the oatmeal to steep. At the end of the day, I see the speed issue but I always thought that most people take their items to go? I guess the other issue would be the stores (a large number of them) that don’t have the new toppings. I think it might be harder for customers to have excitement about the new oatmeal when they don’t get to enjoy the blueberries.

    At the end of the day, we’ll just have to see how it sells! Things that don’t sell, usually get pulled from the menu (of course, there can be other reasons why an item is pulled from the menu). I haven’t tried the blueberries in a smoothie yet – been meaning to do that!

  • Ben

    I’ve had the new oatmeal a few times now and didn’t really have a problem with the soupy problem (was a bit soupy–but let it steep 7-8 minutes and it was fine), but I recently went to another Starbucks (one that is quite a bit more busy/hectic than my regular one) and even after ~12-15 minutes, it was still soup-y to a gross degree. Not sure if it was someone putting too much water in it or what….just saying it can be an issue and not always is a customers not letting it steep long enough issue.

  • Melody

    @Ben – You’re right. There could be some partners out there putting in too much water into the oatmeal. I just figured that there must be some standard in place to make it easy for the partners put in just the right amount. Of course, even if there is such a standard, I guess it would be foolish for me to assume that every barista is getting it right!

  • Ben

    One thing I’ve noticed (Which may be just my remote market) is that the oatmeal container/bowl still says “let steep 3 minutes”, which maybe why some customers are having issues/confusion. I figured there was an easy standard procedure too with the water level, but I’m sure there is some variance on occasion.

  • purple1

    Keith I think people will like the new oatmeal or not like it. I take exception to your view that there is a vocal minority on this website complaining. Rather I think people are quite civil and concrete in their remarks. Melody, I have actually purchased the new oatmeal more than once and let it steep more than the suggested time and it still tends to be soupy.

  • denise r

    @purple1: too funny! I was just about to say exactly what you wrote last nite…but I decided to “hold back’. Those of us who are “vocal” are almost always a ‘minority’ but isn’t that what counts? It’s similar to voting: when I hear someone complaining about some issue (political) I sometimes ask them: did you vote? When they tell me ‘no’, I say ‘then you don’t count’, which literally is true is that situation. I realize the big difference here is that Sbux is, essentially, a business and out to make money. Unfortunately that’s been more and more evident every few mnths. Now the ‘new steel cut’ (very trendy past few yrs) oatmeal. I was shown by one of the partners the line in the bowl where the water is supposed to be added and she said in her experience, that is not necessarily followed by all partners. My guess (someone somewhere mentioned ‘new coke’) is that these steel cut oats, which just by their nature are not meant to be instant (or 5min. or 3 or 10) will ultimately be pulled and a return to the old ‘classic’ while the price increase remains. Just a guess.

    Anyway, thanks @purple1, for saying what I was thinking and wanted to write but didn’t.

  • Keith

    @Melody, inside each oatmeal cup there is a little arrow tick on one of the seams (about half way up the cup), that is the fill line. The new standard is to let the water run until it steams and then fill the cup to this line.

    @Ben, every new oatmeal should be getting a “Let steep 5 minutes” sticker placed over that area of the lid, some stores did not receive this in the auto shipment, I guess.

    @purple1 and @denise, no matter how civil or informative I try to be on here you both always attack me. I never said anyone was wrong – I loved the Perfect Oatmeal, but for me in the perfect conditions of making it myself, and having access to all the equipment, I love the new steel cut oats and find them much more delicious. People who enjoyed the oatmeal don’t find the need to comment because @Melody reviewed the oatmeal positively, I’m just sharing my experience with the oatmeal.

  • Rebecca

    I think Keith makes a valid point. Not that anyone’s comments here should be dismissed because they are in the minority (vocal or not, lol), but that the commenters here share similarity in taste, and therefore it may seem that the oatmeal is more unpopular here in this little corner of the interwebs than it is in the realities of life in store. Like the huge outcry about soy on MSI – disproportionate to what was happening instore, and while not worth ignoring, not worth panicking over either :) I have to do this with CV comments all the time – how do I react appropriately to a single comment out of 30 comments, which ultimately represent thousands of customers in a month? I can’t shrug and brush it off as ‘just one comment’, but I can’t exactly create an entire business plan based on it, as it is ‘just one comment.’

    For my store, the five minute steep time has been an inhibitor to my oatmeal sales. The few oatmeal customers I had loved the 3 minute time – their steeping was done the same time their drink was – they could take a few seconds to check the consistency, grab a couple of bites, take a couple sips, and be on their way. 5 minutes? A whole different ballgame. I used to get oatmeal on my break also, but 5 minutes out of my 15 waiting for it to steep? Timing doesn’t work well for me either if I don’t get in line right away. Not had a problem with texture or temperature though, and our new maple sugar is yummy :)

  • Melody

    I can safely say, that when I started this thread, I had no idea oatmeal would be a hot, hot, topic.

    I also am at a total loss what to say that makes everyone happy. I really dislike arguing, and we’re just talking about oatmeal too.

    Rebecca, you said it right – every ‘one comment’ is important, but not that it will alter the course of Starbucks’ business. (Though, I have indeed seen ways that this blog has influenced Starbucks)

    What I know: I personally love the oatmeal and have now ordered it many many times.

    What I assume? I don’t think Starbucks will go back to the old oatmeal – That would be very un-Starbuckian. When Starbucks launched Pike Place Roast, I was annoyed, and many didn’t like it. No, they haven’t gone back. When Stabrucks launched new Frappuccinos, they never went back to the old recipe despite complaints. It would just be completely out of Starbucks historical pattern to reverse themselves on this.

    What do I predict? I predict that over time the oatmeal will do better and better: One thing is that now people are starting to realize the long steep time; and I think the barista delivery of it – running hot water first – is improving. And, Starbucks is driving trial of it with promos, and lots of people are trying it. I suspect the new oatmeal will stick around and that most people like it.

    The other thing is to consider the scale of Starbucks. World-wide Starbucks boasts 70 million customers a week. It’s a company that can afford to drop 600 million down on Teavana, and makes billions in profit. I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes an intense storm to even rock the Starbucks ship. That’s both their strength and weakness all at once. They can do a lot without being rocked, but not notice the little ripples they create.

    But just generally speaking, I really dislike the dismissive phrase ‘vocal minority’ because the implication is that that voice doesn’t deserve to be heard – never true.

    But when it comes to the oatmeal, I think it’ll do just fine.

    I’m still bewildered that oatmeal is the hottest topic that I’ve had in months!

  • purple1

    Melody I enjoy reading your comments re the oatmeal discussion. I really enjoy the option of having oatmeal at SB and enjoy the taste of steel cut oats, however, without repeating myself, the taste of this new oatmeal can be improved. I think perhaps oatmeal is such a hot topic because it is nice to see that SB has an option of a healthy breakfast. It is true that given the size of SB they are not likely to go back to the old oatmeal, but it would be nice if we could see that they are acknowledging the feedback they are getting re the new oatmeal. – both good and bad. I would be curious as to the specific numbers re how it is being received.

  • Rebecca

    Melody, you’ll never make everyone happy, even here where there are a lot of people who come together over a common subject – Starbucks. You do a great job moderating comments that could be perceived the wrong way, and people here have some of the most civil disagreements I’ve seen online :) And absolutely, your blog can make changes in an organization as big as Starbucks – I’ve seen things here that I’ve gone away and researched and corrected, then passed on to my team/district/area, and I’m in a different country :)

    And we all at Starbucks would do well to remember that one small hole might not sink a big ship, but lots of small holes can.

    @purple – I’m selling about 10% less oatmeal than I was before. However, if we’re looking at percentage of customers buying oatmeal, I’m up about 4% than before. Most of the other stores around me are very similar – changes seem to be influenced mainly by the change in the volume of customers rather than anything else.

  • Melody

    @purple1 – As to the actual taste of the oatmeal, I read somewhere on MSI that a customer was complaining that the new oatmeal tasted bland because, “Starbucks took the salt out of it.” I hadn’t thought of that before! Once I read that, it hit me that the current oatmeal is distinctly un-salty and most people are used to a sprinkle of salt in the oatmeal for flavor. I had a moment of realizing that the current version would taste a little better with a sprinkle of salt. I don’t know if Starbucks really took the salt out, but in the interest of trying to be healthier, I can easily imagine that they did.

  • Melody

    @Rebecca – All I can say is thank you for the great comment. :)

  • Rebecca

    You’re welcome :)

    PS. I thought you’d get a kick out of this too. Whenever we launch something new, my DM always asks me “Well, hey – what do they say on that Starbucks blog you read?” He’s not much of an internet/blogreader type of person, but we’ve gotten enough info/insight etc. that he remembers that I read it and asks about it :)

  • DadCooks

    Today I asked to look at the bag that the oatmeal comes in. Quite interesting, no mention of who actually makes this oatmeal and the only ingredients are “steel cut oats and rolled oats”.

    For several months the Baristas have been staging the oatmeal for the morning “rush” (opening the packages, placing the oats in the cup, and putting the lid on). Before the “new” oatmeal there were consistently about 36 cups prepared. Since the “new” oatmeal this quantity has steadily decreased and is now 12 or less. That tells me, as a trained observer, that this store’s sales of oatmeal are probably down as much as 60%. Discussion with the store manager only elicits a “oatmeal sales are down a little”.

    Sales may recover a bit if Starbucks does not offer an alternative, but some oatmeal regulars will find their own alternatives.

    I do not fault a Starbucks employee for promoting or speaking of any product in a positive way. However, the oatmeal situation is different than the loss of free soy and syrups. Asking customers to pay more for a poorer quality product, the oatmeal, is not the same as making them pay for the same quality add on.

  • Hayley

    I loved Starbucks old oatmeal! I’m sorry to say that I still have not tried the new oatmeal yet. So I don’t have much of an opinion on the subject. After hearing so many mixed reviews and stories about soupy oatmeal (which I can’t stand), I decided to wait and hope they would work out the kinks. I plan on trying it this week…so I guess I’ll see soon!

  • purple1

    Rebecca thanks for the breakdown of sales of the oatmeal. I know from one store to another the demographics are different and I see that oatmeal is more popular at some stores than others.

  • denise r

    @DadC….as usual, thanks for your comments. Truly interesting about the labeling (or, non-labeling) …saying these are ‘steel cut and rolled oats’ could mean +/- any amount of ‘rolled oats’.
    and as far as Sbux unlikely to remove these, or pull them (the ‘new oats’), they have actually pulled lots of things they once tried. am out the door but would like to elaborate later!

  • purple1

    Dad Cooks your figures are also interesting and I agree that it is difficult to justify paying more for a product if it is not of a high quality. How can SB justify this? And Denise R your point about how they have pulled items makes me think about specific pastries they no longer have. And if my memory is correct, many customers that liked the pulled items have been upset. I also noticed that the ingredients in the granola have changed. (noticed awhile ago). Since the oatmeal has just come out, perhaps after 6 months SB might review its sales of the new oatmeal and decide what to do?

  • CD

    Wow – I’ve been away for a while and it’s clear everyone’s been talking about oatmeal while I’ve been gone! That’s a lot of comments about instant oatmeal, no matter which version you’re passionate about.

    How nice is it that Melody has created such a great place for so many people to come together to share their passion for Starbucks and to agree or even disagree in such a civilized fashion.

    Thanks Melody!

    And for everyone else, if you haven’t seen the link up top, how about each of us buy a cup of coffee for our host?

  • Tom

    I’m a very early riser who doesn’t like having to deal with tedium until after I’ve had my coffee and oatmeal and have finished the morning paper. What I don’t welcome while still in a sleepy haze is having to instruct baristas on the best ways to fix the new oatmeal (e.g., please run water until it steams and then fill only to that tiny mark somewhare on the inside of the cup). I, too, find the new product bland and usually disgustingly soupy — even when I let it steep so long that it ends up cold. The word “gruel” comes to mind when I try to characterize it. Despite being a long-time, daily oatmeal customer, this morning’s cup will be my last until Starbucks returns to the “classic” stuff.

  • Sal

    I’ve been trying to like this new oatmeal for the last 2 months because the Starbucks oatmeal had become a part of my daily routine when I get to work. I like steel cut oatmeal better than regular oatmeal, but not this one. First, not only does it remain soupy after 5 minutes, but it does not taste good at all. It is extremely bland. The nut-sunflower seed combo does not do it for me, although I like the blueberries. I would trade all of the new toppings in for the “classic” oatmeal they served before. I’ve given up on trying to like it now, and am going to change my morning routine.

  • Tom

    After my earlier comment on this subject, I took some advice found in earlier posts and now always ask the barista to make sure the water is run until it is steaming hot and then fill the cup only to the notch on the inside seam. This invariably produces a good result andf I am now a happy oatmeal fan again. This new oatmeal requires a level of retail quality control that Starbucks seems to have trouble assuring without constant customer prompting.

  • Michelle

    I also do not like the soupy quality or the blandness of Starbucks oatmeal. I write this at a Starbucks counter in Bedford, Ma where an employee just curtly threw out my oatmeal when I tried explaining to her that after taking her advise and letting it steep for five minutes, it was still watery. As I was about to say and now it is considerably much COLDER after waiting and could she just heat it up, she took it from me and threw it in the sink, and made up a new one with less water (which she obviously did not let get to a steaming temperature as the new oatmeal was just a little warm). I did not wait for it to steep because I was hungry and just wanted to eat by this point. What a lousy and disappointing experience at a place where I usually feel the extra dollars spent brings me both an atmosphere and food quality that’s a cut above. I love steel cut oats, but this short cut effort of lengthy steeping (instead of the traditional cooking) is a fail in my book. Cold porridge? No thanks.

  • Melissa

    I googled and found this thread, after becoming annoyed for the umpteenth time at how gross and bland the new oatmeal is compared to the old version. The original Starbucks oatmeal was a lovely treat I’d have 1-2x a week on the way to work, and I miss it greatly. I’ve tried the new oatmeal about a dozen times and not once has it been good enough to finish the serving. It’s just not tasty, and the employees do not seem to know hot to prepare it properly half the time. They need to bring back what worked.

  • Dominic vecchio

    they charge over $2.00 if you want steam halve and halve

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