What’s Next for Starbucks After Unicorns, Zombies, and Mermaids? We’re Not Surprised.

published Aug 15, 2018
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(Image credit: Starbucks)

Last year, it seemed as though Starbucks focused all of its attention on promoting outlandish, mystical Frappuccino flavors to the masses. First there was the unicorn Frap, then there was the zombie Frap, and then people got in on the madness creating “secret menu” mermaid Fraps. But this year, the coffee chain is channeling its time and energy into a new kind of drink: plant-based, protein blended cold brew. Plant-based! Protein! Cold brew! Now that’s a lot of buzzwords in one menu item.

While the chain’s sticky, sweet, and colorful Frappuccinos were ideal for racking up Instagram likes, they weren’t exactly the most sustainable form of afternoon pick-me-up. This is why their most recent marketing lift (PROTEIN) is such a departure. Of course, Starbucks isn’t making this decision blindly. The corporation definitely did their homework to map America’s nutritional preferences, likely determining that the country’s craving for additional sources of protein isn’t showing any signs of slowing.

We did a little digging to find out exactly how much of a protein boost these drinks really are and if they’re worth the hype.

Here’s the breakdown:

Starbucks’ new Almond Protein Blended Cold Brew contains plant-based protein and cold brew, and is then blended with almond milk, almond butter, and a banana-date fruit blend to add sweetness. It contains 270 calories, 22 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. The Cacao Protein Blended Cold Brew contains 250 calories, 26 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.

Compare both of those to the 410 calories, 59 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein in a Unicorn Frap, and they look like pinnacles of health!

But to be sure, we asked our resident Registered Dietitian and associate food editor, Sheela Fiorenzo, for her thoughts:

“While these drinks have a couple of redeeming qualities, like a bit of fiber and of course the protein, they are still pretty high in sugar — about as much as an 8-ounce glass of soda. One cup of full-fat Greek yogurt is going to have nearly twice as much protein (20 grams) as these drinks and much less sugar, even if you opt for a fruit flavor.”

To compare these plant-based protein cold brews to other typical breakfast choices, check out Sheela’s lesson on Protein 101.