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Founder Howard Schultz questioned whether Bitcoin may ever be a legitimate currency.

Mike Pomranz
January 26, 2018

Part of what has made Starbucks so successful over the years isn’t that it sets the trends, or even that its ahead of the trends: Starbucks has mastered being just behind the trends, but close enough to be one of the first major companies to bring these trends to the mainstream. And so it stands with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Doing what the company does best, Starbucks made a nod to the uber-trendy investments in its earnings call yesterday, but stopped short of saying they were ready to commit to it or any of the other altcoins. Though the coffee giant did leave the door open to accepting these kinds of payments in the future.

“I believe that we are heading into a new age, in which blockchain technology is going to provide a significant level of a digital currency that is going to have a consumer application,” founder Howard Schultz was quoted as saying. “And I believe that Starbucks is in a unique position to take advantage of that.”

However, he then went on to do a bit of Bitcoin trash-talking. “The reason I mention this is not because I’m talking about Bitcoin, because I don’t believe that Bitcoin is going to be a currency today or in the future,” he reportedly stated. “I’m bringing this up because as we think about the future of our company and the future of consumer behavior, I personally believe that there is going to be a one or a few legitimate trusted digital currencies off of the blockchain technology. And that legitimacy and trust in terms of its consumer application will have to be legitimatized by a brand and a brick and mortar environment, where the consumer has trust and confidence in the company that is providing the transaction.”

If that sure sounds like Starbucks is about to launch its own cryptocurrency, Schultz nipped that idea in the bud too. “I'm not bringing this up because Starbucks is announcing that we are forming a digital currency or we're investing in this,” he stated according to CNBC. “I'm bringing this up ... as we think about the future of our company and the future of consumer behavior.”

Keep in mind, it was only last week when, after the announcement of Starbucks first cashless store, we discussed how Starbucks essentially already has a sort of digital currency of its own: Customers reportedly have over a billion dollars invested in Starbucks cards and the mobile app. That isn’t some sort of speculative valuation… that’s money in the bank. Turns out, maybe this whole digital currency thing is something Starbucks was ahead of the curve on after all?