Chains Aim for Summer Sales with Frozen Drinks and Treats

A look at the new line-up of cold drinks being released by fast food chains this summer
Chains Aim for Summer Sales with Frozen Drinks and Treats

Ice-cold drinks and desserts have long been summer staples, but major chains are tapping into new flavor combinations to stand out in the competitive snack market. The recent wave of frosty drinks includes juices and smoothies from a variety of sweet and tart fruits, as well as decadent, drinkable desserts with ice cream, chocolate and even baked goods.

The number of menus featuring cold drinks and snacks has been on the rise in recent years. Use of the term “smoothie” on menus grew 31.7 percent from 2007 to 2011, according to Los Angeles-based research firm Datassential, which reviews items on more than 4,750 menus. In the same period, the terms “iced coffee” and “lemonade” rose 25 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

McDonald’s is expanding its frozen-drink offerings with two new drinks this season.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain’s new Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie joins the chain’s Real Fruit Smoothie line, which debuted last summer. That option blends what the chain calls a “real-fruit combination” of mango and pineapple, low-fat yogurt, ice and juice concentrate and is available this summer along with the existing strawberry-banana and wild berry flavors.

McDonald’s also introduced nationwide in May a Frozen Strawberry Lemonade, which it called a “key contributor” in U.S. comparable-store sales growth of 2.4 percent for the month.

Burger King reportedly is testing smoothies, as well. The chain did not provide details but did confirm that it was in the process of expanding its menu “to appeal to a broader audience.” A recent report in the Miami Herald said the chain is testing more than 12 new items in various markets, including mango and berry smoothies.

Also getting into the mix is Boston Market. Chief executive George Michel said the 487-unit chain is testing smoothies for the 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. snack period in the Washington, D.C., area. Michel said the drinks are offered at the “attractive” price point of $1.29.

Other chains are skipping fruit-based drinks in favor of more indulgent offerings.

Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, has added a cold chocolaty drink called Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Inspired by Dunkin’s 14-year-old Coolatta line of slushy beverages, Frozen Hot Chocolate is made with chocolate mix, ice and milk and topped with whipped cream, according to a franchisee in Allston, Mass. The suggested price for a 16-ounce serving is $2.69.

Dunkin’ also has added two Coolattas for the summer, blue raspberry and Mountain Dew. They join the existing lineup of coffee, strawberry, vanilla bean and Tropicana Orange beverages, which start at a suggested price of $2.29 for 16 ounces at the 9,700-unit chain.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen a significant increase in the popularity of our frozen beverages, not just in warm-weather months but all throughout the year,” John Costello, Dunkin’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

Cinnabon, meanwhile, is combining chocolate cookies and chocolate sauce with a vanilla-flavored dairy mix to make its Creamy ReTreat, which is available through September 3. It’s $3.99 for 16 ounces and $4.49 for 24 ounces.

“We want to grow the beverage offerings at a time when people are inclined to buy beverages, and that’s summer,” president Kat Cole told NRN when Cinnabon debuted the new drink in June.

Krispy Kreme is playing into its strength as a doughnut maker with doughnut-based shakes, which it’s testing in Greensboro, N.C., a staff member at one unit in that city confirmed.

They’re made of soft-serve ice cream and cake doughnuts and come in three flavors: original glaze, chocolate cake and raspberry. The shakes are $1.99 for a small and $2.99 for a large.

Arby’s, meanwhile, has updated its coffee-and-chocolate Jamocha shake. In June it offered a free 20-ounce Jamocha Oreo Shake with any combo meal. The shake is made with cookie crumbles and flavored syrup.

—Bret Thorn

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