Ah, the Frappuccino. A Starbucks commodity. A word that wasn’t even on our tongues just 20 years ago. The Starbucks Frappuccino essentially ushered in the second wave of coffee in America, with sugary sweet, frothy concoctions that consumers flocked to. And to look back on the story of Frappuccinos — and the crazy flavors made across the globe — is pretty fun.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when Starbucks wasn’t ruled by Frappuccinos, but as CEO Howard Schultz explains in his book Pour Your Heart Into It, he wasn’t always a believer. Schultz writes that he resisted Southern California’s granitas trend in the 1990s because he believed the sugary, frozen drinks diluted the integrity of Starbucks’ coffee. Still, three store managers in Southern California experimented with making Frappuccinos beginning in 1994, using a powdered base (that everyone hated), and eventually using freshly brewed coffee. Eventually, the beverage director handed over the new Frappuccino recipe to a team of food consultants, who came up with a Frap made with low-fat milk. Eventually, everyone, customers and Schultz alike, saw the light — or should we say, saw the drink.
The name Frappuccino actually comes from the former coffee chain The Coffee Connection, which Starbucks acquired back in 1994. (In fact, the founder of The Coffee Connection made his own cold, slushy coffee for sale, but Schultz noted that Starbucks didn’t like the drink.) Despite the hurdle of introducing Frappuccinos (and blenders) to the 550 existing Starbucks stores, the Frappuccino was immediately a hit with customers. In 1996, Schultz notes in his book, the first full fiscal year the Frappuccino was sold, Starbucks sold more than $52 million worth of the drinks. It was even named one of the best products of the year by Businessweek.
What’s crazy to think is just how Schultz and the Starbucks team brought the Frappuccino to existence (Schultz writes in the book, "I was wrong, and I was delighted about it"). He writes: "Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this story is that we didn’t do any heavy-duty financial analysis on Frappuccino beforehand… No corporate bureaucracy stood in the way of the Frappuccino. It was a totally entrepreneurial project, and it flourished with a Starbucks that was no longer a small company. Even when I doubted it, it went ahead." We now know who to thank for such a drink (even if they’re, well, making it harder to fit into our summer swimsuits).
Today, there are 17 Frappuccino flavors on the menu — but that’s just in the U.S. While Americans love their Caramel Frappuccinos (the number one selling Frappuccino in America), Starbucks customers across the globe have very different flavors to choose from. Most use local flavors and ingredients combined with the traditional Frappuccino coffee base that’s a staple in the Starbucks drink — and we sort of wish we could get our hands on them in the U.S. Click ahead to find the world’s most popular Frappuccino flavors, the flavors you’ve never heard of.