Starbucks says it’s launching boba-inspired drinks this summer

May 2, 2024

Starbucks is set to roll out its own version of boba at its stores this summer—more than two years after it first confirmed that it was testing drinks with pearls, reports Business Insider.

“For summer, we are launching our first texture innovation, pearls,” CEO Laxman Narasimhan told analysts at the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, April 30. “This is the first of more texture-based innovations that our customers can expect in the coming years.”

The drink will be rolled out during the week starting May 6 as part of Starbucks’ summer menu, he said.

Some TikTok users who appear to be Starbucks baristas have created videos of themselves making what they say are summer berry-flavored Refreshers from the coffee chain’s upcoming range. Some of the drinks are served with raspberry-popping pearls.

Another video appeared to show a barista making an iced matcha with the pearls.

In December 2021, Starbucks confirmed to Business Insider that it was conducting a limited test of two beverages “made with coffee pearls” at two stores. A viral TikTokposted at the time appeared to show drinks called Iced Chai Tea Latte with Coffee Pearls and In the Dark on sale at a Starbucks in Palm Desert, California.

Boba, also known as bubble tea, is a Taiwanese drink typically made with milk, tea, and chewy tapioca pearls, which are created using starch from the roots of cassava plants. Sometimes, the chewy pearls are substituted for popping ones. It’s usually served cold.

Iced and cold drinks are a crucial part of Starbucks’ strategy: In the quarter to July 2023—the early part of the summer season —three-quarters of the drinks it sold were cold.

Starbucks has previously sold flavored iced oolong tea with flavored pearls in some Asian markets, including plum pearls.

Alongside boba, the coffee chain is rolling out a “new functional product, a zero-to-low-calorie handcrafted energy beverage” and more sugar-free customization options, Narasimhan said on Tuesday.

Product innovation like this helps to “elevate the brand” and boost sales, Narasimhan said. He noted that Starbucks’ range of lavender-infused drinks performed nearly as well in the quarter as the chain’s famous Pumpkin Spice Latte.

The drinks with popping pearls have been a long time coming. Starbucks wants to roll out new products more quickly: It’s working on halving its average product development cycle from the current 12-to-18 months, Narasimhan said

Research contact: @BusinessInsider