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What We Learned From Starbucks' Investor Day

Billy Duberstein, The Motley Fool

Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) stock has been on quite a run since this past summer, but new CEO Kevin Johnson isn't content with the company resting on its laurels. The coffee giant is pushing forward a number of initiatives for this year and beyond, financial and otherwise.

Key executives got together this week for the company's annual meeting, where Johnson and others presented details on a number of new plans. Here are the main takeaways from Wednesday's presentation.

Three iced Starbucks drinks lined up next to each other with the company's new plastic lids.

Starbucks' new environmentally friendly plastic lid for iced drinks. Image source: Starbucks.

Changes to loyalty program

The first new initiative has to do with the company's secret sauce: its My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program. Starbucks grew loyalty members 14% last quarter and 25% over the past two years. Amid a flurry of new competition, from high-end local coffeeshops to other large companies trying to undercut Starbucks on price, Starbucks has continued to put up numbers, in large part due to the MSR program.

While many elements of the rewards program will stay the same, Starbucks introduced a new tiered system whereby customers can redeem points earlier than they previously could. For 25 points a rewards member can add an extra expresso shot, dairy substitute, or additional flavor. At 50 points they can get a free hot coffee, tea or bakery item. At 150 points, they can get a handcrafted drink or hot breakfast. At 200 points they're eligible for a lunch sandwich, protein box, or salad, and at 400 points select merchandise or packaged coffee.

This is in contrast the old system, in which one could get any free item for 125 points. So while it may cost some more points in order to get a more expensive item, one can also get free coffee quicker. In addition, points earned through the Starbucks Visa (NYSE: V) Rewards card will no longer expire as they previously did.

An accelerated buyback

The company also announced a new accelerated $2 billion repurchase program to be completed by June 2019. The new buyback program is part of the company's three-year initiative to return $25 billion to shareholders over fiscal 2018-2020. At the meeting the company said it had already returned $14 billion under that program. Going forward, the company plans to use about one third of operating cash for capital expenditures, one-third for share repurchases, and roughly one-third for dividends.

The amazing strawless lid of the future

Starbucks also showed off its new strawless lid for cold drinks, as well as a new plastic lid for mixed drinks that uses 9% less plastic than older lids. Mixed prepared drinks such as Frappuccinos will still have a domed lid that will need a straw, but Starbucks says it's on track to phase out plastic straws completely by 2020. The initiative should remove over a billion plastic straws per year from the system. In addition, Starbucks hopes to double the recyclability of cups and packages by 2022.

The company will also be working with the NextGen Consortium to work on more technologies around sustainability, recycling, and composting.

A first-ever venture investment

Starbucks also announced it would be investing $100 million in Valor Siren Ventures, a growth-oriented private equity fund from Chicago that focuses on retail technologies and innovation. The new fund will also seek another $300 million from outside investors.

The new investment is the first of its kind for Starbucks, which hopes not only to capture the upside from these investments, but also to partner with these start-ups -- an arrangement that could be mutually beneficial for all parties.

Tracking your Pike Place

Finally, Starbucks also unveiled a new feature for its app whereby a customer can scan their bag of Pike Place coffee and see its journey from the farms in South America all the way to the bag. The new feature is fun and informative, and furthers Starbucks' goal of increasing digital transparency and the sustainability of its products.

The next 50 years

Starbucks' presentation claimed to outline a platform for the next 50 years. That's an awfully long time to ponder, especially since Starbucks itself is only 48 years old. Still, Starbucks is clearly very committed to leading innovation in the retail industry, as this year's meeting showed. As such, it wouldn't be surprising to see Starbucks do quite well for another half-century as a high-performing dividend-growth stock.

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Billy Duberstein owns shares of Starbucks. His clients may own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Visa. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.