Starbucks Introduces Smaller Nugget Ice To Conserve Water

Starbucks customers are serious about their coffee. They may embrace change when it comes to the introduction of new beverages and flavor shots, but mess with their ice and they're likely to push back. A recent post on Reddit that revealed the new "nugget ice" is getting a mixed reaction, with some Starbucks loyalists concerned about the upcoming brand-wide switch to smaller ice cubes will result in watery coffee and slushy beverages. What customers may not know, however, is that these new machines use less water and Starbucks is making this change to honor its $50 million sustainability commitment from earlier this year.

As reported by CNN, iced beverages currently account for approximately 75% of Starbucks sales. While almost any corporate initiative to reduce waste is a worthy investment, Starbucks faces the additional challenge of maintaining customer satisfaction — and loyalty. As of 2022, the Seattle-based coffee giant accounted for more than 40% of the U.S. coffee market, so the brand isn't taking the move lightly. "Customers who have tried the nugget ice in our hand-crafted iced beverages during testing had a resoundingly positive response," a Starbucks spokesperson told Tasting Table.

Starbucks aims to cut its water usage in half by 2030

Part of a multi-tiered global waste and water recycling initiative, the move to ice machines that use less water is just one step in the company's comprehensive plan to cut its waste and water footprint in half by 2030. "Like many of our recent investments, this machine allows partners to focus on delivering the Starbucks experience while hand-crafting the same delicious, high-quality iced beverages our customers have come to expect."

A Starbucks spokesman confirmed the reduced-sized ice cubes will begin rolling out at select Starbucks stores this year with an initial focus on markets with a high demand for cold beverages; locations where the efficiency of the new ice-making machines will have the most impact. The multi-year roll-out means it may be a while before consumers in some markets get to test the new ice nuggets to see for themselves if they're up to standard. In the meantime, Starbucks insists that, based on pre-rollout testing, quality won't be a concern. Baristas will continue to use the same scoops and research shows the nuggets do not melt faster than cubes.