How Kenny G Inspired Starbucks' Frappuccino

It's tough to think about the saxophone without calling Kenny G to mind. Most fans know the musician from his Billboard hits "Forever in Love" and "Songbird." The Grammy winner also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and had a board game created in his honor – Kenny G: Keepin' It Saxy was released in 2019 (players use "groove tokens" to craft the perfect day).

However, you might be surprised to learn that –- after the saxophone -– the unofficial groove authority himself is also an aficionado of the Starbucks Frappuccino. He may have even helped inspire Starbucks to sell the cold, blended coffee drink, reports ABC News.

In 1994, Starbucks bought The Coffee Connection, a cafe chain in Boston, and the rights to the "Frappuccino" name and the recipe for $23 million, per Boston Magazine. The investment paid off: just two years later in 1996, it says, Frappuccino sales reached $52 million. By 2011, sales hit $2 billion. So, how did Kenny G help inspire this coffee giant's signature drink?

The birth of the Frappuccino

Kenny G's uncle was one of the first investors to help fund Starbucks as a fledgling company, he explains in an interview with Bloomberg. In the 1980s, when Starbucks was still an operation at Pike's Place Market in Seattle, his uncle introduced him to Howard Schultz, Starbucks pioneer, and current chief executive officer, via CNBC.

When the company first got started, its menu was almost unimaginably limited in comparison to the massive array they offer today: they only served drip coffee, says Kenny G. He encouraged them to seize the opportunity, inspired by a neighboring cafe that appealed to the sweeter palette. 

"There was another company, Coffee Bean, that had ... something called blended," Kenny G says. "And I would always call Howard and say, 'Howard, there's this thing that they do there that's like a milkshake or whatever.' And so I think that part of the reason that they did Frappuccinos was people like me giving them that kind of feedback. So I'd like to think that I was partially responsible for that."

The Frappuccino is a favorite across time

When Frappuccinos officially hit the scene in the summer of 1995, the only two flavors available were Coffee and Mocha, reports Investment Talk. But, those two flavors proved to be more than enough. Former California store manager Dan Moore recalls the drink's immediate success: "The first week of launch we were tracking sales, and it was something like 200,000 drinks the first week -– when we were hoping for 100,000," Moore says, via Starbucks Stories. "The next week it was 400,000 and the next it was 800,000."

Today the drink is more than 20 years old and not going anywhere any time soon. Starbucks now boasts 17 different Frappuccino flavors on their menu. They describe their Caramel Frappuccino as a blend of caramel syrup, coffee, milk, and ice, topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce. All the different flavors of this beverage are crafted by some variation of this recipe. 

However, the Frappuccino might be closer to Kenny G's aforementioned "milkshake" than a coffee. According to Coffee Affection, the strawberry, vanilla, and chai Frappuccino flavors don't contain any espresso. If you want, well, coffee in your coffee, try the caramel or mocha flavors.

A Starbucks representative echoes Kenny G's role in the creation of the Frappuccino. You might even say he was "instrumental." (Get it? Sorry.) "We are very appreciative of everyone, including Kenny, who've been a part of the success of Frappuccino," the spokesperson said, via TODAY.