Starbucks has been a consistent fixture in my life, mostly due to how consistent it is. No matter where I go in the world, I get the same cup of coffee.
I have a bunch of very specific food restrictions, and Starbucks has a lot of options for me. Think sorta like type-1 diabetes, but unable to take insulin. Unlike type-1 diabetes, this is (hopefully) not permanent. I’m eating a certain way to help with an auto-immune disease that can target the pancreas.
Yesterday, someone posted on Reddit that Starbucks is retiring 3 of its 5 sugar-free flavors without a plan to replace them with any other flavors.
The three flavors listed are sugar-free hazelnut, caramel, and mocha.
This leaves the sugar-free vanilla and the sugar-free dolce.
Starbuck’s reason for discontinuing some of the sugar-free flavors is because they aren’t as popular as the regular syrups.
Well, yeah. Having the real thing tastes better than not having the real thing. But many people can’t have the real thing. So this was a great way of making the Starbucks drinks accessible to this group of people.
So why are the SF-vanilla flavors and the SF-dolce flavors more popular? I’m pretty sure I know why.
Starbucks has done marketing campaigns in the past around a “skinny vanilla latte” and around a “skinny cinnamon dolce”. Consumers view these specific beverages as waist-conscious, so default to ordering them when they want something “healthy*.” (*we can debate this, but let’s not get into it right now). They aren’t necessarily proactively ordering a “sugar-free beverage”. They are proactively ordering a “lower-calorie beverage.”
I bet if they had done a campaign around a “skinny caramel macchiato,” they may have seen the same effect. (Though that would be a hard one to pull off since the SF syrup does not look anything like the regular caramel, and the presentation of this beverage is part of its appeal).
Other people on Reddit tried asking Starbucks about this on Starbuck’s Facebook page. So far, Starbucks has confirmed that SF-hazelnut and SF-caramel are being discontinued. SF-mocha remains unclear.
But a note on the SF-mocha. It isn’t merely a flavor–it’s a sugar-free drizzle syrup. That means it’s thicker and is meant to have some sort of visual appeal as well. Because of the way it is thickened, it contains simple carbs. They may not literally be sugar, but it still can affect the body in nearly the same way. So I avoid the SF-mocha on my part.
I’m hoping Starbucks reconsiders. While these flavors don’t have mass appeal, they help meet the needs of a specific group of people (similar to, say, a gluten-free menu at a restaurant).
Looks like I’ll have to move on from my sugar-free hazelnut iced coffees.