Starbucks, the coffee bar operator, has announced US third-quarter profits down 28% to $108.7m (£54m) down from $150.8m (£75m) last year, as consumers responded to rising food and fuel prices. Sales rose 12% to $2.53bn (£1.27bn), the company said yesterday. Howard Schultz, the group’s chairman – who recently reclaimed the executive reins – said: “We continue to come under very heavy consumer pressure due to the economy. Most retailers, restaurants, certainly other premium brands are facing similar headwinds.” Costs associated with increased benefits for loyalty cardholders, stores closures and withdrawing from some planned openings also hit profits. US same-store sales fell in the mid-single digits. During the period the group added 266 US stores and 470 international outlets, taking its worldwide total to 16,226. It said it would pair back new openings by 30 in its home market and planned to open 250 per year in 2009 to 2011. International openings would increase, with 1,300 projected to open in 2011, by which time it planned to have 21,500 stores around the world. Schultz said the company would launch three new products in the US this summer: a health-conscious smoothie-style line, an icy Italian coffee-based drink and an energy drink. The CEO said new health-conscious foods were planned for later in the year.