Starbucks announced it is innovating one of its most popular and key ingredients: whipped cream. The international coffee chain will bring consumers a vegan whipped cream that’s made from lentils to two Seattle locations. The inventive dairy-free whipped cream will allow consumers at the two trial locations to top their signature non-dairy Starbucks drinks with a plant-based whipped cream for the first time in the United States.

“Building on Starbucks sustainability commitment, the company’s goal is to expand plant-based choices as an environmentally friendly menu contributes to our goal to be a resource positive company,” a Starbucks spokesperson told VegNews.

Before the stateside launch, Starbucks released the vegan whipped cream to its United Kingdom menus last year for its plant-based Pumpkin Spice Latte. The famed specialty drink no longer contains dairy across Europe. The company’s decision to develop the plant-based whipped creams stems from its “Plant Positive Initiatives” – Starbucks’ campaign to cut its waste, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

Vegan whipped cream can currently be found at the Seattle area location 1350 156th Ave NE in Bellevue, WA. The company is decidedly keeping the second location a secret from its customers. The trial will determine the consumer interest in the new dairy-free beverage topping.

“Testing is a way of life at Starbucks, and we continue to introduce new drinks and food to menus globally while innovating with plant-based ingredients across key platforms like espresso, cold brew, refreshment, food, and more,” the spokesperson said. “We aim to provide our customers a variety of choices as part of their Starbucks experience.”

The lentil-based whipped cream arrives following Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson’s announcement that the coffee chain plans to innovate its food and drink to increase its plant-based offerings. The company intends to develop the plant-based selection to both capitalize on growing plant-based consumer demand and also uphold its promise to reduce its carbon emissions companywide.

“If I were to say what is probably the most dominant shift in consumer behavior, [it] is this whole shift to plant-based [products],” Johnson said in January. “And that is a shift both in beverage and in food.”

Starbucks introduced several plant-based milk alternatives including coconut, soy, and almond at its locations nationwide over recent years. Following the popular rise of oat milk and a successful test at 1,300 Midwest stores, the coffee chain announced that it would introduce Oatly’s dairy-free oat milk at all its US locations. By bringing oat milk to its stores, the company aimed to encourage customers to try the dairy-free alternative and minimize its animal-based milk sales. The oat milk debut was accompanied by the Iced Brown Sugar Shaken Oatmilk Espresso specialty drink.

“Our Planet Positive initiatives have a central role in our long-term business strategy, and directly address what our customers are asking for. We are moving toward a more circular economy, and we are doing so in a very intentional, transparent, and accountable way," Johnson explained in 2020.

The nationwide oat milk release experienced widespread positive responses, resulting in a national oat milk shortage for the company. The overwhelming demand exhausted the companies oat milk supply by April, showcasing the popularity of the company’s plant-based alternative.

Beyond its beverage menu, Starbucks has tested several plant-based menu items at its signature test location outside of Seattle. Vegan food items including the Plant-Powered Breakfast Sandwich have not arrived at Starbucks locations nationwide, but the company continues to develop and test plant-based items.

Last year, the company released its first plant-based protein to its menus with the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich. Even though the sandwich contained animal-based egg and cheese, it marked the first plant-based protein on the national menu holding up the company’s promise to roll out more sustainable options.

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