US-based coffee shop chain Starbucks has said it plans to expand its food offering as part of its strategy for the future.

The company said food is accelerating as Starbucks' fastest-growing category in US company-operated stores. Lunch sandwiches and salads are now available in more than 2,000 Starbucks outlets in ten markets.

"On average, our lunch program contributes annual sales of approximately $30,000 per store," Michelle Gass, senior vice president, global category management said. "We expect to continue our roll-out, making lunch offerings available in more than 2,500 stores across 15 markets by the end of fiscal 2005."

Appealing to evening customers, Starbucks is also now offering a line of premium desserts. The company also said its food and beverage innovation is at an all time high and is well positioned to continue. The current product pipeline is filled with more than 100 food and beverage products that will take the company into fiscal 2007. The company plans to launch a new "luxurious and indulgent" drinking chocolate, Chantico, in January 2005.

With regards to international growth, the company said it plans to expand to 15,000 international stores, compared to the 2,437 stores it had outside the US at the end of fiscal 2004.

Starbucks said it sees major potential in China and is eyeing the new markets of Brazil, India and Russia for future expansion.

"Not only has Starbucks been successful in its rapid growth internationally, we expect to post a consolidated profit this year, both including and excluding Canada. This significant financial milestone includes profitability for our businesses in Japan and in the United Kingdom," said Martin Coles, president, Starbucks Coffee International.

Starbucks said it continues to target opening 1,500 new stores in fiscal 2005, bringing its fiscal 2005 year-end total to more than 10,000 locations worldwide. In the US, Starbucks estimates it will open approximately 550 company-operated locations and 525 licensed stores. Internationally, the company plans to open approximately 100 company-operated locations and 325 licensed stores.

The company now targets a long-term potential of 30,000 stores worldwide with 15,000 in the US and 15,000 in international markets.