Tasting Starbucks 'New and Improved' Items
"The cookies ranged from ehhh to scrumpdiddleumptious."
Stopped by a Starbucks lately? You may have noticed, or tasted, something new. In an effort to take on a more wholesome image and win back customers, the company has introduced a new and improved selection of food items under the campaign "Real food. Simply delicious."
This means a revamping of all their baked goods (no artificial flavors, artificial trans fats, artificial dyes, or high-fructose corn syrup), and the launch of several new items, like the Vivanno smoothie and Protein Plate (cheese, hard-boiled egg, whole-wheat bagel, grapes, apple slices, and peanut butter). At a recent media preview, I tasted some of the "improved" baked goods on offer at Starbucks nationwide.
First up, the Vivanno smoothie. I tasted the Strawberry Banana which has a banana, strawberry purée, milk, and whey protein powder. This was one of my favorites. I could definitely taste the chalkiness of the powder, but you can request less or omit it entirely. The fruit flavor comes through, the payoff of the simple ingredient list. Other Vivanno flavors include Orange, Mango, Banana, and Banana and Chocolate. [See our previous taste test where the two stand up to Jamba Juice smoothies.] This one only comes in a grande (16 fluid ounces).
The Marshmallow Dream Bar is a standard Rice Krispies Treat. There's no big flavor surprise here—just marshmallowy crispies to enjoy. What did surprise me, however, was the calorie count. It went down from 440 calories to 210 calories in the new version. This is partially due to the slightly smaller serving size, but still, the reduction was impressive.
I like my banana bread a bit rough; I want chunks of nut, big banana flavor, and a moist interior. The Starbucks version? It's OK. The crumb was too fine, too few nuts, and it just tasted like a generic piece of banana bread from anywhere.
The cookies ranged from ehhh to scrumpdiddleumptious. The Chocolate Chunk Cookie was redesigned to be chewier and softer, but I found it too soft and definitely not chewy enough. It's soft in that not-a-homemade-cookie way which I really detest. The Outrageous Oatmeal cookie, on the other hand, was my favorite by far. It's perfectly chewy and crisp, with one-fourth cup of dried fruit in every cookie. The Indulgent Chocolate Cookie (a cookie-brownie hybrid) is for chocolate lovers with its rich, chocolate flavor and fine crumb.
Many of these changes were inspired by suggestions from My Starbucks Idea, Starbucks' attempt at listening to customer feedback. You can share, vote, and discuss these ideas, some of which Starbucks has already implemented. Pro bono consulting for Starbucks, put that on your resume.