Starbucks Innovates With Nugget Ice

Starbucks Store | Image by Papin Lab, Shutterstock

Starbucks announced that it would be shaking things up in its cold beverage offerings by switching over to ‘nugget’ ice in the next few years.

An employee of the global coffeehouse chain broke the news on Reddit in early May that their location was testing a new kind of ice.

Nugget ice — different from pebble ice, shaved ice, ice cubes, and crushed ice — is flaked ice that has been compressed into a pellet, according to The Washington Post. The result is soft and chewy.

Cold beverages have been the focal point of Starbucks’ business since the chain achieved record sales last summer at a time when most Americans were tightening their budgets amid high inflation.

As CEO Howard Schultz told investors last year, the release of the fall menu featuring the pumpkin cream cold brew and more saw the best sales week in Starbucks’ 51-year history, according to Business Insider.

Approximately 75% of Starbucks’ sales are cold beverages, and most of them are customized orders.

Starbucks has steadily tried to innovate its beverage-making process, introducing its own proprietary Siren System last year in order to streamline and speed up the provision of customized hot and cold drinks.

Several steps in the process of making cold beverages were notably automated.


Sneak peek into the future of Starbucks innovation 🔜 Siren System Cold Bar ❄️ #ToBeAPartner #Starbucks #CoffeeTikTok #Frappuccino

♬ original sound – Starbucks Partners

Replacing conventional ice cubes with nugget ice will be made possible by installing special Follett nugget ice machines at Starbucks locations.

“As we continue to innovate and make investments in the Starbucks Experience for our partners [baristas] and customers, we are introducing new machines that make nugget ice to select stores this year,” said a Starbucks spokesperson, according to Food and Wine Magazine.

In line with the coffeehouse giant’s goal of halving its use of water by 2030, the new nugget ice machines require less water to make the same volume of ice.

While the news of revamped ice at Starbucks led to mixed reactions among customers on Reddit, a spokesperson said that customers of locations where nugget ice has already been tested either did not notice the switch or responded favorably to it, according to Today.

The rollout will take place slowly, with the locations seeing the highest sales of cold beverages given priority.

Of course, Starbucks did not invent pellet-shaped ice, and the fact that it has a cult-like following played a role in the decision to add it to the menu.

Long before Starbucks’ nugget ice, hospitals and fast-food chains like Chick-fil-A and Sonic were serving up compressed pellet ice, according to The Washington Post.

The softer texture allows this ice to better preserve the flavors of the drink, which seep into the tiny crevices formed as the pellet melts.

It also melts more slowly since it has less surface area than a typical ice cube and melts clear, doing away with that unsightly, cloudy liquid sometimes left at the bottom of a glass.

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