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Courtesy of Alicia Binion
Career > Work

You Can Thank Alicia Binion For Your Favorite Starbucks Drink

Updated Published

For Alicia Binion, success is sweet — literally. As the Product Developer Lead for Starbucks, she plays a key role in developing fan-favorite flavors and tasty menu items for the global coffee company. But this job isn’t at all what she had in mind when she first joined the company.

Binion started working for Starbucks back in 2006 as a shift supervisor while she went to school to earn her B.S. in biochemistry. “I was in my early 20s, still trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do,” Binion tells Her Campus in an exclusive interview. When she was younger, Binion wanted to be a surgeon, but once faced with the rigorous education requirements and training that came along with that career, she pivoted to a different type of science. “I was super interested in forensics; I was really interested [in] problem-solving, looking at clues, and putting pieces together and solving.”

Although Binion enjoyed the flexibility of working part-time in Starbucks stores while going to school, she hadn’t necessarily expected to use her science background to transition into a corporate role at the company. But sometimes things just work out when you’re in the right place at the right time — and when you’re the right person for the job.

“When I was working in the retail stores, I just happened to work with another barista who found a job posting on the Starbucks website for a R&D [research and development] lab technician,” Binion says. “They were looking for someone who had store experience [and a] science background — and I was like, ‘check, check.’”

Alicia Binion Kiwi Farm Pic?width=1024&height=1024&fit=cover&auto=webp
Courtesy of Alicia Binion

Turns out, Binion’s science education and work experience at Starbucks was the perfect combination. She transitioned to the corporate side in 2015 and has since worked her way up to her current position, which is dedicated to creating a strategy for the company’s internal product testing program, spotting upcoming trends, furthering new ingredient and equipment innovation, and of course, developing beverages.

All together, Binion has worked at Starbucks as a partner (which is what the company calls its employees) for 17 years. Some of the most notable items she helped create include the Iced Brown Sugar Oat Milk Shaken Espresso, as well as the Mango Dragonfruit and Kiwi Starfruit Refreshers. She also played a key role in the global launch the new Oleato beverages, the line of drinks that incorporate olive oil. However, the flavored iced teas hold a special place in her heart. “We created this guava juice that went into the Guava White Tea beverage, and that’s my all-time favorite,” she says.

Thanks to her unconventional path to success, Binion is a big believer in trying new things and opening yourself up to opportunities you wouldn’t normally expect — especially for young people. “I definitely didn’t take the traditional path to get to where I’m at,” she says. “You know, late teens to early 20s — there’s just so much that you don’t know about yourself and so many experiences you haven’t had the chance to experience yet. … My biggest piece of advice is to never say no. Be open to new opportunities, be open to things that you may not have considered.” 

Makalah Wright is the Campus Correspondent at Her Campus at UWG chapter. For the chapter, she has written personal essays about real-life experiences and she encourages readers to take inspiration or learn from it. Beyond her position as the CC, she is also a national writer for the wellness section of the website. So far, she has written articles based on mental health, relationships, and other wellness-related topics. She is a junior at the University of West Georgia, studying in public relations with a minor in music. After her undergrad, she plans to get a masters in communication and work in either music business or the sports industry. She also hopes to create her own foundation that will help with funding for the performing arts in schools. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, shopping, traveling to new places, and drinking iced coffee. She also enjoys playing the clarinet and listening to all types of music, specifically jazz.