The move is a reaction to the growing demand for less-sugary drinks.
Credit: Courtesy of Starbucks

Avid Starbucks visitors may love their Frappuccinos, but if they’ve checked out the nutrition facts on one of those cold, creamy drinks, they’ve also probably noticed they come and quite a caloric cost. While your bare bones cup of Pike Place Roast at Starbucks weighs in at only 5 calories, a venti Caramel Frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream sports 510 calories—basically a couple of candy bars. But in the face of a growing trend toward low- and no-sugar beverages industry-wide (think LaCroix), Starbucks is making a concerted effort to lessen the sugariness of its Frappuccinos, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Currently, many Starbucks drinks rely on flavors that come in syrup form and, as that form suggests, are also sweetened. For baristas preparing drinks quickly and efficiently, the marriage of flavor and sweetener into one ingredient makes a lot of sense. But it also means that a customer requesting fewer pumps of syrup to cut down on sugar must also sacrifice flavor. So to give customers more choice (after all, customization is a core tenant of the brand), the company is testing a new Frappuccino formulation in about 600 stores around the country, including some in California, Missouri, and Rhode Island, according to CNN Money.

The re-engineered Frappuccino separates the flavor from the sugar, making it possible to add pumps of, say, vanilla flavor, without overdosing on carbs. Similarly, those who want their drink sweeter or less sweet would have the ability to fine-tune their order with more or less sweet cream, the new sugar delivery vehicle. After dozens of formulations and two years of internal testing, what Starbucks really wanted to nail was the texture of its classic frozen beverage, as much as the flavor, so that the whole Frappuccino experience remained the same.

The result, in one example cited by the Wall Street Journal, is a grande Caramel Frappuccino that contains 50 fewer calories and 18 fewer grams of sugar than the original. If you’re not already in one of these test markets, time will tell if the customers who are will see and taste any real difference. Of course, if you are a regular at one of these guinea pig stores and Starbucks has done its job, you may not have noticed the change at all.