Representatives of a Los Angeles company called Balmuccino are suing Starbucks, claiming that the coffee giant stole confidential product development details regarding Frappuccino-themed lip balms.
The lawsuit also says the original meeting between the two companies was arranged by longtime Starbucks CEO and President Howard Schultz and current Pennsylvania senate candidate Mehmet Oz, a.k.a. “Dr. Oz.”
According to the lawsuit, one of Balmuccino’s managing members was Oz’s sister-in-law. The suit claims Oz reached out to Schultz to explore the possibility of a joint venture for the lip balm product. Schultz ultimately arranged, but did not attend, a meeting between the two companies that took place in October 2017, the plaintiff claims.
The Balmuccino lawyers are now accusing Starbucks representatives of using confidential information obtained during that meeting to develop a lip balm product of its own, the “The S’mores Frappuccino Sip Kit” that launched in 2019 with the flavors/shades Chocolicious Bliss, Marshmallow Glow, Campfire Spark and Graham Glam.
“Plaintiff had delivered a fully realized product concept to Defendant in a branded, pocketable lip balm delivery mechanism, along with fully formulated samples that smelled and tasted like the flavors of Defendant’s beverages,” the suit says of the 2017 meeting.
In a statement to DCN, a Starbucks spokesperson stated, “We firmly believe these claims to be without merit, and we look forward to presenting our case in court.”
[Note: This story has been updated to include a response from Starbucks.]
Does your coffee business have news to share? Let DCN’s editors know here.