NEW YORK ( The Street) -- First came light beer. Now there's the light frappucinos.
Available until July 6 at Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada, the somewhat adorable mini frap was originally tested last summer in select markets. A 10-ounce mini frap will cost about 20 to 30 cents less than a typical tall size, which could approach $4.00 depending on flavor.
When made with whole milk, a mini frap will weigh in at 120 calories and 24 grams of sugar. As for the "light" version infused with nonfat milk, it has 60 calories and 13 grams of sugar. Both options are far cries from the notoriously sugar-rush causing venti (large) Starbucks size, which depending on flavor, could reach over 400 calories and 80 grams of sugar.
In essence, Starbucks has created a new, highly profitable product line, boasting fewer calories, just in time for summer bathing suit season. Mini-sized cans have been a boon to the bottom lines of soda makers, like PepsiCo (PEP) and Coca-Cola (KO), as they have allowed health-conscious people to indulge on a sweet product with far less calories and sugar. The product prices on the smaller cans aren't generally dropped commensurate with the reduced liquid in the can, hence padding profits.
"The consumer is moving strongly to small packages, and we're continuing to see low to mid-teens (sales) growth in those packages," pointed out Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent on the company's April 22 earnings call.
Coke's rival PepsiCo has noticed a financial benefit from smaller cans, too. "We really want to see all of our new products in smaller packages, and not dependent on the 12 pack, 12-ounce cans and the 2 liters -- and we've made more money as a result of that," said Al Carey, PepsiCo's CEO of the Americas at a presentation on Feb. 19.
But, the mini size also serves a few other purposes for Starbucks.
First, should it become a permanent addition to Starbucks's yawning menu, it could get a legion of health-conscious workout freaks to sample a frap and perhaps trade them up to a full size on those inevitable cheat days. Ugh, so clever Starbucks.
The cup is easier to hold given its mini size, and with the reduced sugar, could be rubber-stamped by dear old mom as an acceptable treat for little Johnny or Jenny. Say hello to the modern-day ice cream cone.
And, similar to what Starbucks is doing with daintier plate sizes as part of its "Evening Hours" dinner menu, the mini frap is friendly for group sharing. Hey, it costs less, might as well order several flavors for everyone to sample, with their own green straws of course.
This is all in addition to the likely mini cups Starbucks will start selling as part of its general merchandise program, which includes a full range of mugs, plastic cups and tumblers.
Let the selfie-stick-snapped Instagram pictures from a 13-year-old girl holding a cute Starbucks mini commence.