Whatever Happened To Starbucks' Fizzio Handcrafted Sodas?

Splashy Starbucks cold drinks come and go, the recent arrivals being a collection of 12 all-new icy Refresher beverages, including the fan-fave Pink Drink. But long before the updated Refreshers were a gleam in the eyes of SBUX drink creators, the much-touted Fizzio handcrafted sodas became the company's effervescent hopefuls. Bubbling up the 2014 summer cold-drink scene at Starbucks, the carbonated sodas were made-to-order rather than presented in cans or streamed from a fountain.

The three Fizzio flavors mimicked old-fashioned retro soda-fountain drinks, including Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale –– with a modern Starbucks twist, of course. Fizzios had their own dedicated carbonation machine, with baristas hand-making the drinks using real sugar cane rather than high fructose corn syrup. The concentrated flavor base came from premium ingredients rather than sugary sweet syrups, and there were no artificial flavors or ingredients. Customers could add extra fizz and customize to their heart's content. It seems there was even some slight expansion of the line, or at least a secret-menu flavor called an Orange Cream Fizzio.

What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the jazzy new sodas simply disappeared. Only a few dumbfounded reporters bothered to dig up potential reasons, but by that time, Starbucks aficionados had moved on to the next and newest offerings. Here's what we know, or at least what can be surmised.

The slow fizz out

Similar to current Starbucks Refresher drinks, the Fizzio line contained no coffee, no caffeine, and no alcohol, in the same vein as other experimental offerings over the years. Perhaps they were going for afternoon crowds or young consumers to which caffeinated espressos and lattes had diminished appeal. Fizzios also had fewer than 100 calories in a grande size, making them lighter and less indulgent than creamy, syrup-based alternatives. Starbucks gambled fairly big on potential Fizzio success, dropping the drinks onto about one-third of its store menus across the United States.

Within about two years after the big Fizzio launch, the drinks gradually and quietly slid off all those menus. Whether the idea was too ambitious or simply fell too far outside the Starbucks core product line is hard to say. It's no real surprise that Starbucks would expand its line with carbonated beverages in 2014, considering the industry-wide buzz in which house-made sodas topped the 2013 list of beverage trends reported by the National Restaurant Association. But there's always a risk when a food or drink purveyor known for a very specific product branches beyond its roots, similar to how diners go to a pizzeria for pizza, not hamburgers.

There's never been much conversation from Starbucks spokespersons about what happened, though The Motley Fool did obtain a brief statement in October 2016. There was an acknowledgment that Fizzios were no longer part of the menu, but that Starbucks remained committed to the carbonation platform.