Could Starbucks and SodaStream Team Up?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Does anyone not love Starbucks (SBUX)?

The coffee chain's shares were rising marginally to $72.88 on Friday after Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog threw her hat into the ring, upgrading the stock to "outperform" from "market perform."

Herzog said the stock has upside that's not being reflected currently, from its innovative food and beverage offerings to the company's digital retail capabilities. Following meetings with management, she came away feeling more positive on the company. She raised her price target range by $13 to a range of $87-$89.

"Overall, we have more conviction that SBUX's increased focus and discipline will propel the company into a new era of faster growth and innovation," Herzog writes in a note to clients. "Further, we continue to be impressed with: (1) SBUX's strong execution of multiple initiatives in the U.S., (2) its tremendous potential to become an international powerhouse, (3)its impressive loyalty programs and digital offerings, and (4) its long runway for growth in (consumer packaged goods) both in the U.S. and internationally where we believe it's just getting started."

Herzog especially pointed Starbucks' experimentation within the beverage area with its new "handcrafted cold carbonated beverages, which should be rolled out to one-third of its stores this summer," according to the note.

That could be huge, given Coca-Cola's (KO) decision to invest $1.25 billion, a 10% stake, in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), the maker of the popular single-serve Keurig machine, and collaborate on developing and rolling out the forthcoming Keurig Cold, an at-home cold beverage system, which will compete with SodaStream (SODA).

While the markets deemed SodaStream a buy yesterday (the stock surged 7.1%) based on speculation that PepsiCo (PEP) would want to buy it now to stay in the game against Coca-Cola, perhaps a deal or partnership should actually be one between SodaStream and Starbucks.

Such a combination could give SodaStream a way into the hot beverage market and Starbucks a way to move further into cold drink beverages.

CEO Howard Schultz did say recently he's looking to hand off daily management duties to concentrate on innovation and growth initiatives. Could a SodaStream/Starbucks hookup be so far-fetched?

Despite a disappointing first-quarter report, Herzog is not alone in her thinking. Of the 28 sell-side analysts that rate Starbucks, 21 of them have a buy-equivalent rating on the company, according to Bloomberg.

Starbucks shares are up 7% this year versus the S&P 500 which is down 3.58%.

SBUX Chart SBUX data by YCharts

Several things in the Starbucks' pipeline are likely to pay off over the next couple of years, including "further leveraging of its Teavana [and] Evolution Fresh, new execution of brewed coffee offering, handcrafted beverages, new food offerings, Refreshers, and its single-serve portfolio," the Wells Fargo note said. "Bottom line, we are optimistic that SBUX's new food and beverage offerings will be the single largest driver of comps in the next 2-3 years."

And as for its mobile/digital offerings, here too the company has tons of potential, Herzog writes.

"As SBUX grows these digital/mobile platforms this should: (1) benefit SBUX's own core business and (2)enable it to leverage these assets outside the 'Starbucks ecosystem,' perhaps becoming the leading standard for retail mobile payments. Bottom line, SBUX is on the forefront of retail digital innovation, which we don't believe is reflected in its current valuation."

--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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