Starbucks debuts a Halloween-themed Frappuccino as Dunkin’ Donuts doubles down on upscale espresso

Starbucks' Witch's Brew Frappuccino.

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Starbucks’ Witch’s Brew Frappuccino.
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Starbucks

  • Starbucks debuted a Witch’s Brew Frappuccino on Thursday, in another bid to win over Instagrammers with a colorful, bizarre beverage.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts announced on Wednesday it is relaunching its espresso line to win over coffee snobs.
  • The coffee giants are battling for both high-brow and low-brow customers as they try to boost beverage sales.

Coffee giants are battling for both the coffee snob and the sugary-frozen-drink enthusiast.

On Thursday, Starbucks debuted the Witch’s Brew Crème Frappuccino, a purple Frappuccino that tastes like an orange and contains “Bat Warts and Lizard Scales” (or, in non-Halloween terms, chia seeds).

Like many of Starbucks’ Instagram-friendly Frappuccinos, the drink is only going to be available for a super-limited time – a few days or as supplies last.

Since April 2017, when the Unicorn Frappuccino went instantly viral, Starbucks has rolled out a number of brightly colored and sometimes bizarre Frappuccinos. While the chain has switched up its Frappuccino strategy recently, cancelling Frappuccino Happy Hour due to declining sales, it has continued its tradition of having a Halloween-themed drink on the menu in 2018.

Starbucks’ embrace of the bizarre Frappuccinos doesn’t mean the chain is completely ditching its attempts to appeal to coffee snobs. The company has been opening upscale Roasteries, including one in Milan, Italy.

However, just as Starbucks debuts a more low-brow drink, Dunkin’ Donuts is trying to compete with the chain’s higher-end options.

The new Dunkin' experience includes cold brew on draft.

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The new Dunkin’ experience includes cold brew on draft.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

On Wednesday, Dunkin’ (as the chain will be officially rebranded in early 2019) announced it is rolling out an all-new take on espresso. The revamp will include new equipment, a new espresso recipe, and updated training for in-store workers.

“Espresso is one of the fastest growing coffee categories, particularly among younger consumers, and with our coffee credentials we believe we have a tremendous opportunity to improve our awareness and credibility among espresso drinkers,” Tony Weisman, Dunkin’s US CMO, said in a statement. “Our superior lineup of lattes, cappuccinos, Americanos and macchiatos will delight current customers and surprise new ones.”

The espresso relaunch comes as Dunkin’ is trying to modernize and boost beverage sales. In September, the chain announced it is dropping the “Donuts” from its name.

“This isn’t a change for the sake of change,” Dunkin’ Brands CEO David Hoffmann said at the time.

Hoffmann continued: “For two years, we have been focused on evolving Dunkin’ into the premier, beverage-led, on-the go-brand and have been implementing what we call our blueprint for growth.”

While it is hard to imagine two types of drinks more divergent than Starbucks’ Witch’s Brew Frappuccino and Dunkin’s upscale espresso drinks, they have one thing in common: they cost significantly more than the basic cup of coffee that Dunkin’ built its business on.

A large coffee at Dunkin’ costs about $2; a large macchiato at the chain costs almost $4. At Starbucks, a venti macchiato costs roughly $4.75, and a venti Witch’s Brew can cost almost $6. And, as both chains struggle to grow traffic, pricier drinks could be helpful in boosting sales.