Review: Compared To Starbucks' New Energy Drinks, Dunkin's Sparkd' Options Fizzle Out

I love energy drinks. My favorite afternoon pick-me-up doesn't come from the coffee maker; it typically comes from a can. Red Bull is a favorite of mine, but I'm always interested in trying something new — and when it comes to energy drinks, I look for strong flavors that really pack a punch.

As someone who frequently peruses the energy drinks you can find in the grocery store, ever-seeking a newly released buzzy beverage, it's safe to say that my expectations for energy drinks tend to be pretty substantial. I like many different flavors, and have enjoyed the whole spectrum of popular energy drinks with varied amounts of caffeine content. That said, my favorites tend to lean toward options that are quite fruity, mildly sweet, and taste like identifiable flavors. 

In late June, Starbucks unveiled a new lineup of iced energy drinks, following the lead of Dunkin's Sparkd' energy drinks that premiered with the donut chain's Spring 2024 releases. Eager to compare the new Starbucks and Dunkin' energy-drink offerings, I gathered every option now available at both chains. With these offerings being released within only a few months of each other, I was curious to taste both varieties and determine whether they are similar, or strikingly different. And, of course, I wanted to answer the big question: Which is better? 

How much do Dunkin' and Starbucks energy drinks cost?

In pricing these new energy drinks, there's actually a fair amount of difference between the two coffee-focused companies. There's also a notable difference in available sizes. Dunkin' offers its trio of fizzy energy drinks in small, medium, and large. In my region of Central Florida, the small versions cost $4.99, the medium is priced a dollar more at $5.99, and ordering the large size will have you paying $6.99.  

Starbucks also now offers three energy drinks — including one frozen option — and these are all only sold in venti sizes. That means you're paying the full venti price for a 24-ounce cup. The two iced versions both cost $6.25 at my local Starbucks, while the frozen drink set me back $7.55. The step up in price from the iced versions to the blended drink does seem a bit hefty, given the seemingly minimal modifications required to whip up the frozen drink. Of course, prices can vary depending on location, so it may be worthwhile to check your area's Starbucks and Dunkin' locations to verify the prices of these new energy drinks before making a purchase. 

Availability of Dunkin' and Starbucks energy drinks

Oftentimes, when I see new drinks released at major chain eateries, they're generally only offered for a limited time. However, at least two of Starbucks' new iced energy drinks — offered in Melon Burst and Tropical Citrus flavors — will be available year-round. Although it's unclear how long these will remain on the menu, it seems that Starbucks is optimistic about the ability of these energy drinks to stick around. That said, Starbucks is acknowledging that its Frozen Tropical Citrus Iced Energy with Strawberry Puree drink will only be available via the chain's app for a limited time — but this beverage has the potential to be ordered as a new Starbucks secret menu item, even if the drink won't always be instantly clickable.

As a lasting debut from Dunkin's Spring 2024 menu, the chain's freshly concocted Sparkd' Energy lineup — originally offered in Berry Burst and Peach Sunshine flavors, which are now mixed to create a third option called Tornado Twist — remain on the menu as we head into the summer months. It's probably reasonable to assume that you'll see these offers at Dunkin' locations at least until autumn, and perhaps much longer. Of course, this will probably depend on the overall sales of the drink, as Dunkin' seemingly hasn't given a clear indication about how long the Sparkd' Energy beverages will remain available. 

Nutritional information for Dunkin' and Starbucks energy drinks

The ingredients of these new energy-drink lineups vary greatly between the competing brands. For example, in terms of nutrition, Dunkin's medium-sized Berry Burst drink contains 130 calories, while a medium Peach Sunshine has 120 calories. For total sugars, the medium sizes of Berry Burst and Peach Sunshine each have 27 grams of sugar. As for the all-important caffeine content of Sparkd' Energy drinks, you'll get 96 milligrams in a small, while the medium size has 144 milligrams and the large offers 192 milligrams. 

At Starbucks, the nutrition content of its new energy drinks is quite different. Both of the non-blended varieties have a low calorie count, with the Tropical Citrus Iced Energy option featuring 5 calories, and the Melon Burst Iced Energy containing 10 calories — and both varieties have zero sugars. The real difference between the Starbucks specialties is in the caffeine levels, as Tropical Citrus is loaded with 205 milligrams while Melon Burst has 180 milligrams. The reason why the Tropical Citrus variety has more caffeine is likely because of its inclusion of green tea, while the Melon Burst option lacks this ingredient. As for Starbucks' new frozen energy drink with strawberry puree, the calorie count goes up to 180 calories, while it features 42 grams of sugars and 140 milligrams of caffeine.

Taste test: the full Dunkin' energy-drink lineup

In the Dunkin' Sparkd' energy-drink lineup, there are three different flavors you can choose from: Berry Burst, Peach Sunshine, or Tornado Twist. All of these options are made with sparkling water, caffeinated flavored syrup, and ice.

The Peach Sunshine drink tastes a lot like peach sparkling water, and there's really no energy-drink feel or punch to it. Rather, it's just a sparkling water that just so happens to be energized in some way. That said, it has a lovely light peach color that is quite pretty. Meanwhile, the Berry Burst is a little bit more enjoyable than the peach-flavored offering, but its taste is too ambiguous, like a mystery berry. I wish there were something more distinctive happening here.

When Dunkin' released these peach- and berry-flavored energy drinks in early spring, Dunkin' fans did what Dunkin' fans do, and they began creating a mixture of these drinks. Well, that's exactly what the Tornado Twist is: a mix of the peach and berry Sparkd' drinks. Between these three options, Tornado Twist is definitely my favorite. I found that the peach did a nice job of supporting the berry, leading to a juicy mixture. 

Taste test: the full Starbucks energy-drink lineup

Starbucks iced energy drinks begin with a canned energy drink and are enhanced by an infusion of ingredients often found in tea. The pink Melon Burst includes hibiscus flowers and cinnamon, while the yellow Tropical Citrus features green tea and spearmint. The Frozen Tropical Citrus option also includes crème used in Frappuccinos, in addition to strawberry puree. 

The Melon Burst tastes like a Starbucks Iced Passion Tango Tea with a bit of sweetness. Thanks to the carbonated energy-drink content, there's also some sparkle. This drink has a nice hibiscus flavor, but the sucralose of the energy drink also comes through quite strongly. In terms of flavor, the Iced Passion Tango Tea Lemonade is much more enjoyable. As for the Tropical Citrus option, this has a great green tea flavor in it, and the energy drink also gives it a sparkly feel. However, like the melon option, the sucralose content is just too strong. I wish Starbucks had opted to go with regular sugar as the energy-drink sweetener.

The very first thing that I noticed about the Frozen Tropical Citrus Iced Energy drink is that it separates nearly right away. That said, the added puree makes it feel closer to a strawberry mocktail than a typical energy drink. This is definitely my favorite of these new Starbucks offers, although I still found the addition of crème a little strange, and likely part of the reason why it separated so easily. 

Verdict: are Dunkin' or Starbucks energy drinks better?

Starbucks and Dunkin' are taking two very different approaches to these new energy-drink offers. While Dunkin' offers drinks that basically taste and feel like flavored sparkling water, Starbucks seems to produce these as more of a supercharged tea lineup. Starbucks is also leaning pretty heavily into the sugar-free world, while Dunkin' doesn't seem to avoid adding sugar in its drinks.

All told, the flavor profiles of the Starbucks options were more enjoyable to me, simply because I don't particularly like the flavored sparkling water taste that's found in the Dunkin' drinks. That said, the new Starbucks energy-drink flavors weren't much to write home about either, if I'm being honest. 

That is, except for Starbucks' frozen energy-drink option. This variety is really exciting, and I think that if you can overlook the fact that this beverage separates so easily, many people would probably really enjoy this as a go-to drink, especially for anyone seeking something with a caffeine boost that isn't coffee-based. I'd love to experiment a little more with the Starbucks drinks to hide that sucralose flavor even more. Perhaps some added Strawberry Açaí Refreshers base syrup would make a great addition.