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How Starbucks is influencing the beauty industry

How Starbucks is influencing fragrance, makeup and skincare.

If you want to see the future of beauty and fragrance, step into a Starbucks café anywhere in the world. From the choice of beverage flavours, cake pop themes, coffee shots, packaging and even lighting, no other retailer or company has a bigger influence on fragrance, makeup and skincare products today. How did a Seattle-based coffee company come to have such influence in the $40 billion-a-year beauty industry? The journey will surprise you.

Starbucks Cafe in Palm Springs, California
Starbucks Cafe in Palm Springs, California

Flash back two decades when trend forecasting companies were all the rage. These multi-continent intelligence-collecting agencies scoured the planet for the next big consumer trends. Researchers lined up to be the first into national car shows where auto brands unveiled the next big paint colours for SUVs and compact cars. The auto industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars developing paint shades and makeup labels in particular choose lip and eyeshadow hues based on this research. Forecast consultants studied the menus of Michelin star restaurants for new flavour pairings. And others looked for the next exotic travel destinations.

But the majority of trend forecasters ordered a Caramel Macchiato, pulled up a chair and settled in at their local Starbucks to observe what consumers were buying, saying and drinking. Why? Because no other retailer attracts Gen Z and Millennials like Starbucks. This is the target audience most coveted by beauty and fragrance companies. And they will do anything to attract their attention. Gen Z’s flock to Starbucks before, after and sometimes even during class for Mango Dragonfruit Refreshers, Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Frappuccinos, and Matcha Tea Lattes. Thousands collect the seasonal cold cups, tumblers and water bottles.

YSL Black Opium, a modern coffee-floral scent
YSL Black Opium, a modern coffee-floral scent

So trend forecasters started compiling detailed dossiers on Starbucks’ menu, packaging and customer experience. This info was quickly absorbed by beauty marketing teams who passed it along to research and development groups who set to work. The first result? Coffee floral fragrances. In 2014, YSL unveiled the first modern coffee floral fragrance named ‘Black Opium’, a rich amber-vanilla scent for her built around a roasted coffee note. Perfumers Nathalie Lorson, Marie Salamagne, Olivier Cresp and Honorine Blanc layered notes of vanilla, pear, orange blossom, jasmine, almond, patchouli, cashmere wood and cedar to beautiful effect. Even the sequin-decorated bottle looked a little like a Starbucks thermos. Response was instantaneous. The fragrance sold out worldwide and remains a global bestseller to this day with seasonal limited editions that play up different coffee note pairings.

Carolina Herrera Good Girl
Carolina Herrera Good Girl

In 2016, fashion designer Carolina Herrera followed suit with a coffee-themed floral scent of her own, Good Girl. This alluring eau de parfum took the Starbucks influence to the next level. It too began with a coffee note, but then perfumers Louise Turner and Quentin Bisch added cacao, praline, almond, cinnamon and vanilla. Tuberose, jasmine sambac, orange blossom, orris (iris) and Bulgarian rose added a floral kick. It too shot to the bestseller list in part to the stiletto bottle design. Like the Starbucks collector cold cups, Herrera offered seasonal twists on the original scent.

Tarte Double Shot Eyeshadow Palette features coffee-themed shades and names
Tarte Double Shot Eyeshadow Palette features coffee-themed shades and names
Clarins' Body Fit contains coffee ingredients
Clarins’ Body Fit contains coffee ingredients

Makeup and skincare companies incorporated Starbucks themes into their new launches with coffee ingredients in body care and eye cream formulas. Eye palettes in rich coffee hues appeared. And you may have noticed that beauty counters in department stores started to resemble Starbucks cafes. The influence was widespread and global.

Spring 2023 Starbucks Menu

So how is Starbucks influencing beauty and fragrance in 2023? One glance at the spring menu and you’ll see some trends emerging.

Starbucks Iced Strawberry Oat Match Tea Latte
Starbucks Iced Strawberry Oat Match Tea Latte

New Iced Strawberry Oat Matcha Tea Latte

This Canadian-exclusive creation blends matcha green tea, refreshing strawberry and creamy oat milk. Matcha offers a complex flavour profile with mellow vegetal, grassy notes and an inherent nuttiness that is slightly bitter. Strawberry is bright and sharp. And oat milk has a rich flavour.

“We were inspired to bring together the grounded earthiness of matcha, that first bite into a ripe, juicy strawberry with subtle notes of cucumber and a hint of lemon for a refreshing and balancing beverage experience when sipping on the new Iced Strawberry Oat Matcha Tea Latte,” explains Matthew Thornton, Starbucks beverage developer.

Strawberry notes are already starting to trend in fragrances. Perfumer Marie Salamagne used a sweet wild strawberry note in Kate Spade Eau de Parfum. Burberry Her, Yves Saint Lauren Mon Paris, Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Intense and Jo Malone’s Redcurrant & Cream feature strawberry top notes.

Green tea is also having a moment. Armani Privé Thé Yulong, Bvlgari Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert, Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb and Creed Royal Ceylan showcase green tea notes.

Armani Prive Thé Yulong
Armani Prive Thé Yulong
Creed Royal Ceylon
Creed Royal Ceylon

Starbucks Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cold Brew
Starbucks Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cold Brew

New Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cold Brew

The new Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cold Brew is sweetened with vanilla syrup and topped with cinnamon caramel foam and a dusting of cinnamon dolce topping. Building on the love of Starbucks Cold Brew, which is handcrafted in small batches daily, slow-steeped in cool water for 20 hours, without touching heat, the new beverage delivers a gorgeous cascade of cold foam that is velvety smooth.

“Taking inspiration from salted caramels and gooey sticky buns, the new Cinnamon Caramel Cream Cold Brew is a lovely balance of decadent baking flavours with a delicate and creamy cold foam topping that seamlessly blends into the coffee with each sip,” says Erin Marinan, Starbucks beverage developer.

How is this beverage going to influence the fragrance industry? A couple of ways. To start, the chilled coffee beverage is made without hot water. It’s slow-steeped in cold water which will undoubtedly inspire perfumers to experiment with new ways of extracting the aroma from coffee beans. And pairing a cold foam with a hint of sweetness with a coffee note will likely inspire similar pairings in scent. The best perfumes feature some tension between ingredients: sweet with bitter, rich with lightness, green freshness with floral bouquets. Starbucks choice of contrasting ingredients will inspire coming designer scents.

Starbucks Spring 2023 collector cups and thermos
Starbucks Spring 2023 collector cups and thermos

And watch for emerald green with an accent of fuchsia to pop up in makeup palettes and on beauty packaging. It’s joyful and eye-catching.

60 Comments

  • Reply
    Susan T.
    December 22, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    I love Starbucks and I love coffee scents too. I’m older than this demographic but maybe I’m a hip granny! Lol!

  • Reply
    sarah robinson
    July 7, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    Love this

  • Reply
    Melissa
    June 30, 2023 at 9:59 am

    This is very unique and interesting!

  • Reply
    Patti Scott
    June 18, 2023 at 5:30 am

    I love coffee in beauty products. I think it’s very effective, especially in eye cream. The caffeine really brightens up that area.

  • Reply
    Michelle Petrovich
    June 12, 2023 at 3:40 pm

    I am all for this. I can’t wait to see where this goes for the future of beauty.

  • Reply
    Hafsa Nabeel
    June 5, 2023 at 9:35 pm

    What an interesting read! Hard to believe that Starbucks has such a hold on the beauty industry

  • Reply
    Stella McKissack
    June 1, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    Interesting to see what influences new beauty products

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