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McDonald's Challenges Starbucks With These New Items

McDonald's' menu got a perfect end-of-summer upgrade.

While the first day of fall is a little more than a month away, many people are excited to bid goodbye to the most sweltering time of year, get out their coats, and eat something pumpkin spice-flavored as soon as possible.

But if summer is your favorite time of year and you intend to squeeze every lemon-sunshine day out of it before cooler temperatures swirl in, you would be far from the only one.

And if you live somewhere where it's still quite warm, you're likely seeking out frosty drinks to help you stay cool while you enjoy your late-summer adventures.

Cooling drinks are a summer staple in the fast food world, with Starbucks's  (SBUX) Frappuccino remaining a top choice since it launched in 1995. While a blended frozen drink is far from a unique offering, Starbucks seems to have nailed a formula that strikes just the right chord with its customer base.

McDonalds  (MCD)  has offered its own take on the Frappuccino for some time now, simply called the Frappe, in caramel and mocha flavors. 

But now it's adding a few new items, and one of them has been a favorite at Starbucks for a long time.

What's New On McDonald's' McCafe Menu?

On Aug. 17 McDonald's Japan said via its Twitter account that it would be offering two new Frappe flavors for a limited time, as well as a new macaron flavor.

The first is the Uji Matcha Frappe, which looks very similar to Starbucks's Matcha Frappuccino. This one is made using Uji matcha powder, which is made in Kyoto and prized for its rich flavor. 

The medium size will sell for 450 yen ($3.33 U.S.), while the large will sell for 500 yen ($3.70 U.S.). Noteworthy is that the large size here costs significantly less than Starbucks's tall size, which is $4.99.

The second flavor, called Hojicha, is made with another tea powder that is popular in Japan for its smoky and nutty flavors. 

Like the Uji Matcha Frappe, it also comes topped with whipped cream (which you can likely skip). Strangely, the drink is shown on the McDonald's Japan menu only in a medium for 490 yen ($3.63 U.S.).

Lastly, the newest macaron flavor to be added to the menu is also Hojicha, and these are 170 yen each ($1.26 U.S.).

All three items go on sale starting Wednesday, Aug. 24.

McDonald's Caters to What Its Audience Loves

Tea is beloved in Japan, and so are both these flavors, which are drunk often in their basic tea form at many restaurants. 

To offer these as Frappes is a smart play for McDonald's' Japanese customer base, as these flavors are traditional and comforting to them.

During its Q2 earnings report on July 26, McDonald's reported a 9.7% increase in global comparable sales, with 13% of that coming from international-operated markets. McDonald's' president and chief executive, Christopher J. Kempczinski, made a point of highlighting the success that McDonald's has scored in the Japanese market.

"Japan achieved an impressive 27th consecutive quarter of positive [comparable] sales, with strength across our delivery and digital channels," he said.