Why Starbucks’ Latest Menu Addition Proves Health Matters

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It’s not often that Americans want less of something from a restaurant. You want to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth from the sandwich, fries, or milkshake you purchase. But in the era of public officials clamoring for Americans to adopt a healthier lifestyle, there are signs that consumers are taking note. Fast food restaurants are adding vegetarian options to their menus, apparently for a cost savings but also because customers are choosing to spend their dollars at places that offer fresher ingredients and leaner options. Though Americans may always struggle to turn down a larger size of french fries, Starbucks is hoping to score big by cutting down the size of one of its most popular drinks — the Frappucino.

As of May 11, Starbucks is offering one of its signature drinks in a “mini” size, to complement the typical tall, grande, and venti offerings. “Frappuccino fans have made more than 6,000 suggestions regarding the blended beverage on My Starbucks Idea,” the company wrote on its news page. “While most customers offer ideas for new flavor combinations, many have been asking for a smaller drink size.” The mini drink is 10 oz., slightly smaller than the 12 oz. tall version. The offering is nationwide while supplies (cups?) last, and customers can get any flavor they want in the mini size.

So is this a marketing ploy for the novelty of it, a strategic move because of customers’ health concerns, or something else? It’s hard to say exactly, but it’s likely that the test run last summer in certain markets was successful because of a handful of factors.

Though many Americans are still perfectly content with their Big Gulp super sized sodas and portions, a growing number of people are showing larger concern about the volume of food they eat during the course of a typical day. It’s a trend that’s continued for a few years, as Full-Service Restaurant’s website noted. In 2012, the publication called it “A big year for small portions,” and described how several restaurants were paring down their plate sizes and offering half-portions to customers who readily made the switch.

Tapas and “small plates” became novelty items, but also cut down on the amount of food customers ate during each meal. More recently, companies like Coke have marketed their smaller offerings more aggressively, putting its “mini” 7.5 oz. cans of soda in the spotlight. The smaller portions obviously means fewer calories and less sugar, selling points for parents who are hoping to curb their children’s (or their own) sugar fix.

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