Root Beer, Ginger Ale in testing at Starbucks

by Melody on April 16, 2013

IMAG4725 Interior sign near espresso machines - Ginger Ale 14 March 2013 --2Starbucks is currently testing their own root beer and ginger ale.  I had the opportunity to try these and wanted to share that here.  First off, before I go any further, I always have to provide the reminder that just because Starbucks tests something – be it a Marshmallow Mocha or Peach Tea – doesn’t mean that it will make it to a national launch.

I took a trip with a friend to a Starbucks testing these items.  I saw three main things being promoted:

1) Sparkling teas and sparkling Refreshers:  This was actually no surprise to me.  Starbucks has tested “sparkling iced teas” on multiple occasions.  If these ever makes it to a national launch, I will not be surprised.  There was a very early test called “Teas That Mingle,” which involved a variety of sparkling teas.  I think that Starbucks simply used carbonated water to make the teas.  That was in 2008, and I assume that the technology to add CO2 to a product wasn’t a sophisticated as now.  Sparkling iced teas are currently available at the Tazo store too.   Since this isn’t a wholly new test item, I won’t review it here.  I already know from visiting the Tazo Tea store in Seattle that I do like a sparkling iced tea.

2) Sparkling root beer:  This was crazy good.  Since I knew I wasn’t going to be able to easily return to this Starbucks, I drank two Venti Starbucks root beers!  I just couldn’t stop.  It’s advertised as a “Spiced Root Beer,”  but whatever spice element there is, is absolutely subtle.  It’s sweet, refreshing, and a lovely distinctive root beer flavor!  I think this is a great adjacent product idea for Starbucks.  I’ll be honest, when I go into Starbucks, I drink a lot of coffee.  But  I am constantly looking for other options too.  This would be great in the same lineup category that includes the Refreshers.  Starbucks root beer solidly gets two thumbs up from me!

3) Sparkling ginger ale and lemon ale:  I tried the ginger ale but not the lemon ale.  To be honest, I am not a fair reviewer of the ginger ale because I’ve never been much of a fan of ginger ale, generally speaking.  But I still think this is a great creative idea.

A customer can also order any Refresher as a “sparkling” Refresher.  The friend that I was with ordered her Cool Lime Refresher as a sparkling beverage, and I tried a sip and loved it.  I wish I could have hang out at that store with these test items drinking drink after drink!

Later on, I was sitting at Olive Way talking to a partner (not working) about these test items, and she asked me, ‘How were they made Melody?‘  From what I could see, the root beer came in a slender, white container, similar to a lemonade or strawberry puree container.  The barista poured a little into a special shaker, added water, and then placed it into a special machine that seemed to be simultaneously shaking it and adding CO2.  It was sort of fun to watch!  Your drink bounced around in a machine.  The partner I was sitting with exclaimed, ‘I want that machine!  Then my arm won’t be so sore!  We shake a lot around here!‘  Man, it’s true that retail is hard on the arms.  Even if the root beer never makes it to a national launch, I hope the machines do.  I can imagine sparkling teas being a national success, and I think partners will love the shaking machine!

Check out other Starbucks test items here.

IMAG4726 Root beer and gingerale 14 April 2013 StarbucksIMAG4723 Exterior Root Beer sign -2

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

purple1 April 16, 2013 at 7:42 am

Melody I am a bit confused by this post. Is this a soda? If it is. I am a bit surprised that SB is testing this. I would not like to see sodas enter the SB market.

Andrea Rivers April 16, 2013 at 7:45 am

This will be a great addition for my non-coffee/tea drinking husband!!! I hope it takes- plus it will be nice when I’m not in the mood for coffee.

Melody O. April 16, 2013 at 7:45 am

Yep it’s soda. I’m fine with it. Starbucks has a history with soda – There was Mazagran in the 1990s, which started out as a hand-crafted beverage in stores: http://www.starbucksmelody.com/2010/08/07/a-starbucks-history-lesson-bottled-starbucks-mazagran/ – I just see it as a perfectly natural adjacent product.

Kristen Danger Hasselgren April 16, 2013 at 8:07 am

I like the sodas that they have come up with. They’re not your typical “dark soda” or “lemon lime” that you can get at any fast food place…they’re a little classier, at least. They sound delicious!

Trista Papen April 16, 2013 at 8:13 am

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication, Melody! As a partner myself, I love seeing your posts. Which location/area is doing this test?

Allison Varnell April 16, 2013 at 8:18 am

I’m a little confused by this move, as well. Why don’t they just bring back the sparkling soda they used to have for Italian Sodas? Or, at the very least, bring back the San Pellegrino so I can make my own.

purple1 April 16, 2013 at 8:26 am

I guess my reaction leans more towards given the high level of obesity in this country and how soda contributes to it, I wish SB would not expand this test to all the stores. I know they had a soda many years ago and I know soda is sold all over the place, but I just feel there is no need to add this to their line of drinks.

Sandra Trolinger April 16, 2013 at 8:27 am

No thanks on overpriced sodas. I would not buy them if they ended up rolling them out nationwide after the test is over.

Kristen Danger Hasselgren April 16, 2013 at 8:41 am

My store has the Pellegrino…mmm raspberry Italian soda!

Jócelyn Freeman April 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

Where are the test stores?? I must try the ginger ale!!!!!!
I wonder if they use something like a soda stream to do this. I’ve done it with ice coffee and the refreshers and its pretty delicious :)

Nathan Hilfiker April 16, 2013 at 9:01 am

I have always wanted a carbonated beverage, I think that is the one product that we are really missing!

StarbucksMelody April 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

I know this might sound weird but a part of me just does not care about high calorie beverage drinks and obesity. I certainly agree that obesity is a problem in this country. I know that. But when all is said and done, I believe that people are responsible for what they eat – whether that is a Venti Caramel Extra Caramel Sauce Frappuccino (talk about empty calories!) or a Big Mac or whatever. And portion control – partly due to eating out often -also is at play. I am so sorry this is harsh, but I just have no thoughts about being food and beverage police. Eat what you want. (Meaning “you” generally, not aimed at you.) You’re responsible for yourself, and it’s not my worry.

Also, I don’t see this as a weird product. I can’t say that Refreshers, Sparkling Teas, Via, and Smoothies make sense in a Starbucks, and then draw the line at Root Beer.

I respect your opinion Purple1, and I know that many will dislike the idea of Root Beer at Starbucks, but I genuinely liked this beverage, would order it again, and I’m for it.

Cathy Malmat April 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

These look neat. I wonder if any of my local places are testing them. Do you know if there’s a way to find out which stores are testing these?

StarbucksMelody April 16, 2013 at 9:30 am

Since this appears to be a first stage of testing, probably these are only available at select locations in Snohomish County, Washington. Starbucks testing definitely has stages to it. Though, San Diego often is a Starbucks testing region, and that would be my next guess, but that’s truly a wild guess.

Cathy Malmat April 16, 2013 at 9:41 am

Yeah, I figured it might only be near their home base. That’s too bad, since it’s far. Hopefully it’ll go well and they’ll roll it out nationally. I love craft sodas!

Michelle April 16, 2013 at 11:31 am

Makes sense to me…it will give another option for kids (and when I say kids, I do not mean small children) who are not yet drinking coffee.
I love the canned Refreshers, seems to me that adding soda to the ones we make in store would just make them like those?

Ensanguin April 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Your description of the root beer makes me want one right now!

denise t April 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I agree with some of the few who have posted here: I cannot see Sbux going in yet another non-coffee (or tea) direction. I’m sure they’ve done an excellent job on these fancy, high-priced (I am only guessing) sodas. (or, ‘pop’, as we call it here in the midwest). I would never go to a Sbux for a root-beer, or any other soft drink. So glad we may have another option (for a quality coffee shop! around here). I really did love Sbux when it was ‘Sbux coffee and tea’. And, to make it really clear, I still love their “dark” coffees, and Reserves…many of them. I just don’t want to see them add a soda fountain and ice-cream. (you never know……;(

denise r April 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm

ughhhhhh….that would be ‘denise R.’ not ‘t’.

Organic Fair Trade Dave April 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

A typical Starbucks location does 80% or more of its business by 1:00 p.m. Starbucks is continually looking to grow the business outside of the morning day part. The MyStarbucksRewards program was really intended as a way to bring customers back into the store for additional daily visits. But, and you partners reading this can attest, customers just started trying to game the system by asking for separate transactions in the same visit. So, back to the drawing board for ways to bring customers back to Starbucks later in the day for more than just a free refill. Non-coffee beverages are a way to do that. You will also see a wider selection of foods in your local Starbucks pretty soon for lunch/late afternoon eating. So, it’s not surprising to see Starbucks testing new, non-coffee beverages to grow that portion of the business.

Maybe I am biased as a Starbucks partner, but I welcome these new, non-coffee additions (and since these are test beverages this may all be much ado about nothing) to the menu because Starbucks delivers a quality product. I trust Starbucks to deliver quality and freshness over nearly all other options. I’m willing to bet that the root beers Melody had were made with more natural ingredients than what comes out of a fountain at any restaurant or anything from a can in the supermarket. Starbucks wouldn’t put out a product that doesn’t have a strong value proposition over the competition. So, I welcome these kinds of new and exciting products because I would love to be able to have a Starbucks experience later in the day equal to the Starbucks experience I have in the morning… on my days off. :)

Devin April 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Wow, I am actually really excited about this! A lot of the current beverage line up would be awesome carbonated (teas, refreshers, lemonades, apple juice, etc). The largest obstacle I can see is rolling out the carbonation equipment. Depending on the model, it shouldn’t be too difficult since baristas are already trained to prepare whips.

Oh gosh, now I really want to try an iced carbonated no whip caramel apple spice…

Laura April 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

What store is this? I want to go! Thanks

Chgo. April 16, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I would normally say something like this is a bad idea for the same reasons others have mentioned. I must admit that I think this might be a good idea to even expand. They already sell soda at stores. Soda makes more sense with sandwiches, wraps, panini and bistro boxes for some, does it not?

I’m not to sure about the Lemon Ale, although I do like lemon, but I like the idea of Root Beer and Ginger Ale. If I ever get the opportunity to try them, I hope they taste more like the Authentic Old Fashioned types. I wonder how many people have ever tasted real Root Beer and Ginger Ale, unlike the overly sugary stuff we are used to? It would be great if these were the kind of sodas Starbucks was going to introduce. I’m also a sucker for some good Cream Soda. I think that would have been a better choice then the Lemon Ale IMHO.

There is one big reason why I would really like this to happen. Most of my closest friends don’t drink coffee. Some have never drank a cup in their lives and just will not touch it. I take a lot of heat for enjoying coffee. I’m supposed to be a beer drinker, not a coffee drinker. I would love to sit on the patio at Starbucks on a nice summer day with a friend and just talk and people watch. How does one do this when their friends will not drink coffee? Soda! So why not?

Allison Varnell April 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm

I’m jealous!

amazonv April 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Sounds like a fancier soda stream to me, and i love my soda stream

David April 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

Those look good! They may be similar to a product Seattle’s Best offered a few years ago…Red Kane Kola. They poured soda water on tap, and then flavored it with a variety of syrups. You could mix and match. They had a REALLY good cola flavor, an espresso flavor…but my favorite was the cola flavor with a shot of espresso, and whipped cream on top!

tposhi April 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Which Snohomish Stores are testing this? I would love to stop by and talk with their partners and try it myself.

Ava Jalapeno Popper Romero April 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm

i love the idea for starbucks root beer, i will give it a try instead of diet coke, because dr oz said, diet coke is bad, then i thought 4 years ago, and i totally agreed with him, so yay for possibly creating a root beer so much lighter than a&w, starbucks customers like myself can take a break from coffee or frappes and try something new like this handcrafted drink will be on the look out at my local starbucks!

Rachel April 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Melody – You were mentioned again on the Huffington Post as the “unofficial Starbucks blog.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/starbucks-spring-2013_n_3103011.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec3_lnk2%26pLid%3D300467

Melody O. April 18, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Thanks for sharing that here! Trust me, I am totally flattered that my blog gets a Huffington Post mention!

lyracole April 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

sbc used to have soda type drinks too (at the pike place stores, at least), and they were sooooooo good.

i would love to try these. the sparkling teas are a must try as well, if i can manage to get myself up to the tazo store.

CandyinSA August 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I heard a advertisement that there would be sodas in San Antonio but my Starbucks on Rittiman/Harry Wurzbach in San Antonio had no idea what I was referring to only if someone order a Pellegrino water and added raspberry syrup. I also read that the Starbucks in Cali are testing the cordless charging mats. I live in a relatively humid and hot climate. For the past few weeks the temperatures have been triple digits. Today it got to me. I would welcome Starbucks offering crafted sodas especially 1/2 off deals like the Frappachinos a few months back. I need 14 more stars to hit Gold. Tell me how I can score some free Starbucks cards. Please pretty please.

Melody August 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Hi Candy! I’m on my phone, sorry if this is short & sloppy. I’m sorry that your local baristas didn’t know about the sparkling rootbeers and test of carbonation. I cant blame them though – you’d have to be following a lot of Starbucks news in the press (or faithfully reading this little blog) to know bout it. It’s just a test – in Atlanta & Austin, I think. But that’s a great sign it tcould be expanding to more cities. I really like the root beer idea too. It’s not

Melody August 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Ugh. Glitchy phone. Well, it could be 70 out, and I’d enjoy a sparkling drink at Starbucks.

charles lee December 31, 2013 at 11:03 am

Did you ask then how much sugar would be in the root beer and ginger ale? I love Starbucks and look forward to these new additions. I hope they figured out a way to make these new sodas taste good and have fewer calories.

Thanks

Ali April 16, 2014 at 11:38 am

I’ve tried the lemon ale and I love it! I’m really disappointed that I can only order it in at the Starbucks’ in Atlanta, because I live two hours away. I hope they bring the machine and drink to all the stores!

Lydia Bates June 1, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Hi! I know this post is older, but I’m super excited that they are rolling this out to more stores this summer! We’ve got the Salt Lake City market, Las Vegas, and parts of Arizona and more of Texas! Hopefully if it goes well in these new markets that they will roll this out nationwide!

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