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Starbucks CEO Talks Pumpkin Spice Latte K-Cups, Red Cup Controversy, and More

News from today's annual shareholders meeting

Howard Schultz and the Starbucks logo
Howard Schultz addresses shareholders during today's meeting

Starbucks is holding its annual shareholders meeting today, and so far during the lengthy webcast the coffee giant has revealed several new things it's got in the works. CEO Howard Schultz also addressed the ridiculous red cup controversy that dominated headlines over the holiday season.

Starbucks angered many of its loyal customers when it announced big changes to its rewards program last month, and now the coffee giant has revealed a new rewards-related initiative: It's planning to introduce a prepaid Starbucks Rewards Visa card with Chase Bank, "a reloadable prepaid card that allows customers to earn Stars for all card purchases made virtually anywhere that Visa is accepted." The newly revamped rewards program launches in mid-April, with the prepaid card set to be available by the end of the year.

Schultz directly addressed the red cup controversy that worked the internet into a frenzy over the holidays. Schultz pulled out a red cup and the audience began screaming and cheering as he stated, "It's amazing, I pull out a red cup and you know what I'm going to say."

"It's just a red cup," he proclaimed, while noting that the controversy resulted in a whopping 8 billion social media impressions for Starbucks. "The stock went down that week because people convinced themselves we were going to have a bad holiday. As you know, we had a record Christmas quarter." As for whether or not red cups will return for the 2016 holiday season, that's anyone's guess for now, as Schultz isn't saying just yet.

As usual, the do-gooder CEO is focused on the more charitable aspect of his multibillion dollar corporation, saying, "Our core purpose and reason for being is to grow the company, to provide enduring value for you (investors), and build a business in which our people are proud to work for Starbucks... We're doing everything we can as a company to improve the lives of the people we serve." This week the company announced it would donate all its leftover ready-to-eat food to local food banks.

Starbucks is also about to launch some new additions to its retail lineup: A bottled version of its cold brew coffee that will be available at both Starbucks locations and grocery stores, and a new line of Starbucks Latte K-cups in caramel, mocha, and vanilla flavors (plus peppermint mocha and the iconic pumpkin spice for the holidays). The company is also preparing to launch its ready-to-drink bottled coffee products to Asia, where it's currently making a major push with 2,500 new stores planned for China.