“Starbucks to Seize Multi-Billion Dollar Cold Coffee Market,” announces Starbucks on Starbucks’ Starbucks-themed website.
As far as press release headlines that double as Orwellian propaganda slogans (Starbucks Strikes Critical Blow Against Coffee Bean!), it’s pretty solid. And informative. And undeniably true. The world is about to get hit with a flood of cold, second-wave coffee and we’ll have to drink our way out or die trying. In its latest move to be hip and youthy and down with the hipster coffee zeitgeist and stuff, the chain is introducing nitro cold brew. And it’s going to be wildly successful.
The chain rolled out its regular cold brew coffee last year, and, even though it’s damn near indistinguishable from the slightly cheaper iced coffee that they already sell by the bucketful, Starbucks saw cold drink sales increase by 20 percent. But there was statistical evidence to predict that would happen—from 2010-2015, cold brew sales in America rose 338 percent, whereas nitro cold brew (cold brew infused with tiny nitrogen bubbles to create creamy, slightly fizzy consistency) is a different, more obscure ball game.
The whole nitro thing didn’t really enter the normal coffee drinker’s consciousness until Stumptown put it on tap and debuted those tiny $5 cans (totally worth it) on Whole Foods shelves last year. Starbucks is the first major chain to try and jump on the nitro bandwagon, but that’s not exactly uncharted territory for them.
The last time Starbucks tried to aggressively chase a cool-kid coffee trend was when they came out with a Flat White in January 2015. The quarter after Starbucks started pouring the the Australian specialty—which features ristretto espresso shots with micronized foamed milk and, in Starbucks version, a “dot of latte art”—same store sales in America unexpectedly increased 8 percent. It turns out, people aren’t just going to Starbucks to get novelty milkshakes masquerading under fake Italian titles, and they just want somewhere where you can get a grab-n-go hummus plate and interesting new coffee drinks in the same place. Who would have thought?
Starbucks’ nitro cold brew will be gradually rolling out to 500 stores in New York, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and L.A. this Summer. I’ve called the five closest Starbucks locations to the office and so far come up empty, but the search will continue.