Starbucks’ Newest Customization: A Shot of Carbonation


It’s understood that when customers go to Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) in the morning they want to get caffeinated, but did you know that some go to get carbonated too? A recent report from Quartz reveals that the coffee giant has been secretly testing out a new market since last spring, and it is one for “handcrafted sodas.” According to Quartz, Starbucks baristas in certain locations have been letting customers choose to carbonate juices, sodas, and a selection of coffee and tea beverages, and they’ve been happy with the consumer feedback.

Thanks to Sodastream-like carbonation machines behind counters in certain stores, coffee drinkers can now get a buzz different than that of the caffeine-related kind, and their response to the experiment has been so positive that the world’s largest coffee chain has been encouraged to trademark the name Fizzio as it starts making plans to launch its own soda line, or at least market an official carbonation add-on. Before recently, adding carbonation to customers’ beverages was an experiment limited to certain stores in Japan, Singapore, Atlanta, and Austin, Texas, but now Quartz reports that CEO Howard Schlutz is decidedly more open about expanding that possibility forward, and he told investors during a recent earnings call, “Carbonation. That is a new category for us. We think it’s a significant opportunity.”

Adding bubbles to one’s coffee may seem like a strange experiment, but nonetheless, it seems to be going over well. In Starbucks’s supported locations, baristas can now add fizz to most things a customer requests, barring espresso drinks and Frappucinos, but they especially want customers to try three carbonated drinks: lemon ale, ginger ale, and spiced root beer, calling them Starbucks’s “handcrafted sodas.”

According to Quartz, Starbucks has been interested in testing sodas because the company understands that not all customers want sugar-laden caffeinated drinks at all hours of the day, and in the middle of the day, many patrons are more likely interested in something lighter and more refreshing. Starbucks has already marketed some canned or bottled carbonated drinks, but its new push to offer carbonation from behind the counter reflects its forward thinking that more consumers could visit Starbucks locations if they knew they could buy a carbonated and caffeinated offering.

Of course, everything is still in the testing stages, and it was only recently that Starbucks’ secret trial run was even leaked, so is not yet confirmed that Starbucks will launch an official carbonated drink line, but it does seem likely that more Starbucks drinkers will be requesting a shot of carbonation in the future.

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