Starbucks' (NASDAQ:SBUX) cafes started as a variation on an Italian-style cafe. The company filtered that tradition of handcrafted coffee and espresso drinks through a very American filter. That led to products that veered greatly from that original concept, like the Frappuccino, and to others that built on it using seasonal, local flavors.
You may not see a Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) on the menu in a traditional cafe in Italy, but it's really just a flavored variant of the classic espresso and steamed milk drink. Starbucks has made beverages tied to flavors associated with a season a key business driver.
People look forward to fall when the PSL hits the menu and they may make an extra visit or two in winter to sample drinks flavored with peppermint, gingerbread, or eggnog. Seasonal limited-time beverage offers keep the Starbucks menu fresh, both bringing lapsed customers back and driving check prices higher for regular visitors.
It's a strategy the company uses around the world with flavors designed to appeal to the local audience. Some of these beverages would not be too out of place on a menu in the United States. Others might need a little more explanation.
China and Australia
While caramel plays a prominent role in a number of drinks on the regular U.S. Starbucks menu, the company takes things a step further for its China, Asia Pacific, and Australia markets. The Golden Sesame Caramel Crunch Latte mixes espresso, caramel, and sesame flavors with a sesame crunch topping, according to a press release.
In these markets, the company also offers the Salted Caramel Mocha Crumble, an espresso drink which seems like something it could bring to its home market. The drink combines espresso, mocha flavor, and toffee nut syrup that's topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a sugar/salt blend.
The coffee chain also has two drinks just being offered in China. The Peach Blossom Green Tea Latte is made with steamed milk and matcha powder and topped with whipping cream and "dots of pink peach-flavored sugar" while the Kumquat White Chocolate Mocha blends white chocolate cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and sweet kumquat flavor.
Familiar, but unique in Japan
People mix chocolate and banana in various desserts and the flavors go well together in shakes and smoothies as well. That makes it a bit odd that banana-flavored hot chocolate has not been a thing, at least in the U.S., but Starbucks has introduced it in Japan. Chocolatey Banana Cocoa combines chocolate (white or dark), topped with whipped cream, crumbled banana sponge cake, and chocolate sauce.The drink is then completed with chunks of banana roasted with sugar.
Europe, Middle East, and Africa
Starbucks locations in these markets are getting a seasonal drink which has aspects of two U.S. menu favorites the Caramel Brulee Latte and the Smoked Butterscotch Latte. The Butterscotch Brulee Latte mixes espresso and caramelized butterscotch, that is topped with "a sprinkle of caramel dust which settles to form a caramelized textured top, similar to a creme brulee dessert."
Latin America and the Caribbean
One of the more unique drinks on this list, the Yogurt Frappuccino, does not contain coffee. Instead it's a blend of chilled yogurt and fruit blended with ice. It comes in two flavors, red berry and banana.
Why are these drinks important?
Seasonal drinks can drive traffic, increase sales, and lure in customers who might otherwise not visit the chain. Rolling out drinks using locally popular flavors can bring in customers who may not want traditional espresso drinks. It's also a way for the chain to show an understanding of each market's tastes.
This is smart business for Starbucks, where it's taking shots at finding the next PSL in each global market. It's also worth noting that some drinks, including the Yogurt Frappuccino which started as a European exclusive, prove popular enough to cross borders.