Starbucks Teases A Potential New Drink And It's Giving Us Panera Flashbacks

We often see restaurant and food chains learning from others' successes, like the wave of chicken sandwiches that followed Popeye's big win, but it's not too often a place like Starbucks takes a swing at something that was a recent (and big) public failure. The coffee spot has been trying out a slew of new beverages the past few years, going beyond new flavor combinations to launch entirely new lines like its olive oil infused Oleato coffee, and its recent boba-inspired Refreshers for the 2024 summer menu. That would already be a lot of innovation, even for a company well-known for trying to stay ahead of the curve. However, there are some trends that are just too big to ignore, and a recent post from Starbucks seems to confirm a rumor that it is planning to release a new line of iced energy drinks, mere months after Panera discontinued its controversial Charged Lemonades.

The vague hint came from the Starbucks Instagram page, where the company posted a picture of two ice cubes alongside two lightning bolt emojis. This immediately led to rampant speculation on Instagram and Reddit that energy drinks were on the way. And, for once, internet rumors seem to have a basis in reality, as poster Markie_devo had leaked photos just a few weeks prior purporting to show three flavors of iced energy drinks as part of the Summer Part 2 Starbucks menu. It seems like the chain is willing to bet that it can pull off what Panera couldn't.

Are energy drinks coming to the Starbucks menu soon?

According to the leaked menu, the three flavors of energy drinks will be tropical citrus, melon burst, and a frozen tropical drink. While a highly caffeinated beverage might not seem out of the ordinary for Starbucks, this release comes on the heels of a similar product causing huge issues at Panera. Its high-caffeine Charged Lemonades were blamed for two deaths and resulted in multiple lawsuits before they were pulled from the menu in May 2024. Starbucks might be betting on being more clear with its advertising, as a big part of the controversy surrounding Panera's drink was that the caffeine content was not sufficiently labeled, leading customers to consume much more than they realized.

Still, it could just be that the allure of the energy drink market, and the success of newer brands with sugar-free flavors like Celsius, is too much for Starbucks to pass up. The segment has been exploding in recent years, with a report from market research firm Mintel showing a 73% surge in energy drink sales over the last five years, with the market expected to surpass $30 billion from continual double digit yearly growth. In fact, Starbucks already tried a canned energy drink back in 2022 called BAYA, but it never made a splash and has quietly disappeared from stores. Whatever the exact reason Starbucks is taking this next gamble, it's clear the energy drink wars are just heating up.