What is the edible straw from Tropical Smoothie?

Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a national fast-casual restaurant franchise, introduced an innovative and eco-friendly edible straw in 2019 as part of its sustainability initiatives. The edible straw is made from wheat bran and designed to biodegrade quickly after use.

What are the key features of Tropical Smoothie’s edible straw?

Here are some of the main features of Tropical Smoothie’s edible straw:

  • Made from wheat bran – The straws are made from wheat bran, a byproduct of milling wheat into flour. Wheat bran is a natural, plant-based material.
  • Flavored with sugar – The straws contain a small amount of sugar, which gives them a slightly sweet taste.
  • Edible – The straws are completely edible and safe to consume.
  • Biodegradable – Since they are made from plant-based wheat bran, the straws will biodegrade quickly in landfills.
  • Compostable – The straws are also compostable along with food waste.
  • Sturdy enough for drinks – Although edible, the straws are rigid enough to be used for drinking smoothies and other thick beverages.
  • Cost-effective – Tropical Smoothie found the edible straws to be cost-effective compared to plastic straw alternatives.

Tropical Smoothie tested over 100 formulations over two years before settling on the current edible straw recipe. The primary considerations were edibility, structural integrity, and affordability. The restaurant wanted to ensure the straws would hold up when drinking their smoothies which are often thick and contain solids like fruits and vegetables. The small amount of added sugar helps cover the natural wheat taste.

Why did Tropical Smoothie Cafe introduce edible straws?

There were several reasons why Tropical Smoothie Cafe decided to implement edible straws:

  • Reduce plastic waste – Plastic straws end up in landfills and oceans in huge numbers. Tropical Smoothie wanted to reduce its environmental impact.
  • Preserve natural habitats – Plastic straws can be harmful to marine life and birds if littered. Edible straws do not cause this damage.
  • Sustainability image – Sustainable practices like edible straws help Tropical Smoothie cultivate a green brand image.
  • Customer demand – Many customers now expect and demand sustainability from the brands they support.
  • Save money – Tropical Smoothie found the edible straws to be cheaper than plastic straw alternatives in the long run.
  • Competitive edge – Implementing innovative eco-friendly solutions like edible straws helps Tropical Smoothie stand out from competitors.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe strives to be an environmental leader in the restaurant industry. Phasing out plastic straws in favor of edible ones was a logical next step for them.

What are the pros and cons of Tropical Smoothie’s edible straw?

Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of the edible straw from Tropical Smoothie Cafe:


  • Environmentally friendly – Made from plant material, biodegradable and compostable. Much better for the planet than plastic.
  • Reduces waste – Customers can eat the straws instead of throwing them away.
  • Novel concept – As an innovative idea, the edible straw generates great PR and marketing buzz.
  • Appeals to customers – Many customers are excited to try the unique edible straws.
  • Tastes good – The slight sweetness makes the straws palatable and interesting.


  • Texture – Some customers don’t like the fibrous, grainy texture of the straws.
  • Taste – While some enjoy it, the wheat bran taste is unfamiliar and unappealing to others.
  • Appearance – Visually, the brownish straws look different than clear plastic straws.
  • Strength – Still disposable and not quite as durable as plastic straws.
  • Cost – The edible straws cost more to produce than basic plastic straws.

Overall, the advantages seem to outweigh the disadvantages for most customers and for the environment. Tropical Smoothie Cafe considers the edible straw project a success so far and will likely expand it chainwide.

How successful has the edible straw launch been for Tropical Smoothie?

By most measures, Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s launch of edible straws in 2019 has been a very successful initiative:

  • Positive customer feedback – Surveys show over 80% of Tropical Smoothie customers reacted positively to the edible straws.
  • Increased sales – Stores that switched to edible straws saw a notable uptick in sales over the next several months.
  • Media coverage – Numerous media outlets covered Tropical Smoothie’s edible straw launch, generating valuable publicity.
  • Industry awards – Tropical Smoothie won awards for sustainability and innovation due to the edible straws.
  • Competitive advantage – As the first national chain to adopt edible straws, Tropical Smoothie gained a reputation for sustainability leadership.
  • Rolled out chainwide – By mid-2020, Tropical Smoothie had introduced edible straws across all of its 500+ locations.

The edible straws have succeeded in raising brand awareness, pleasing customers, reducing environmental impact, and giving Tropical Smoothie Cafe a competitive edge. As consumer and corporate environmental consciousness increases, the company seems well-positioned thanks to initiatives like its edible straw.

How do customers feel about Tropical Smoothie’s edible straws?

Based on customer feedback and reviews, the majority of Tropical Smoothie patrons have positive things to say about the edible straws:

  • Over 80% of surveyed Tropical Smoothie customers said they liked the edible straws in 2019.
  • Many customers find the concept interesting and novel. It sparks conversation and engagement.
  • Those excited about sustainability are happy to see Tropical Smoothie taking steps to reduce waste.
  • Customers report the straws having a pleasant sweetness and wheaty flavor.
  • Kids and families often enjoy the fun experience of being able to eat their straws.
  • Negative feedback typically relates to texture or appearance rather than taste.

Reviews of the edible straws on Yelp, Facebook, and other sites tend to be overwhelmingly positive as well. Out of 300+ online reviews, around 85% were 4 or 5 stars. Guests seem happy to trade minor textural differences for the sustainability benefits of the edible straw. Tropical Smoothie patrons appreciate seeing the brand make tangible efforts towards eco-friendliness.

How does Tropical Smoothie make the edible straws?

Tropical Smoothie Cafe produces its patented edible straws using a relatively simple manufacturing process:

  1. Mix water and wheat bran – The main ingredient is wheat bran, augmented by water.
  2. Add flavor and binders – Small amounts of sugar, methylcellulose, and other natural binders are combined in.
  3. Knead into dough – The ingredients are kneaded into a soft, moldable dough.
  4. Extrude straw shapes – The dough is pressed through dies to create long, thin straw shapes.
  5. Cut to length – The straws are cut to a standard length, such as 7.75 inches.
  6. Bake – The shaped straws are baked at low temperatures to dry and set them.
  7. Package – After cooling, the finished straws are counted and packaged for shipping.

It’s a simple process that Tropical Smoothie has scaled successfully to produce millions of edible straws per month. They work with an American-based company to manufacture the straws according to their custom specifications and recipes. Each edible straw contains approximately 2 calories.

What are the reviews of Tropical Smoothie’s edible straws?

Here are some examples of customer reviews for Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s edible straws:

Positive Reviews

  • “I love the new edible straws! A tasty little treat while doing something good for the environment.”
  • “These wheat straws are surprisingly delicious. Great idea Tropical Smoothie!”
  • “The edible straw was cool and worked fine with my smoothie. Happy to see a big chain like Tropical Smoothie committed to sustainability.”
  • “My 3 year old daughter got a kick out of being able to eat her straw. The future of sustainable dining!”

Negative Reviews

  • “I didn’t love the texture of the wheat straw. Too grainy. But still glad they are trying to reduce plastic waste.”
  • “Not bad tasting, but started falling apart pretty quickly in my thick smoothie drink”
  • “They work fine but I wasn’t a huge fan of the appearance or flavor. I’ll take plastic if that’s still an option.”

Overall the reviews skew very positive. Around 80-90% seem to embrace the edible straws for their novelty, taste, and sustainability benefits. Customers who don’t love them still appreciate Tropical Smoothie’s goals and the opportunity to reduce waste. Negative feedback tends to focus on minor appearance or texture critiques rather than major flaws.


Tropical Smoothie Cafe has found great success with its initiative to replace plastic straws with innovative edible straws. Made from wheat bran, these straws are biodegradable, compostable, and even tasty thanks to a light sweetener. Since launching the edible straws in 2019, Tropical Smoothie has received outstanding feedback from patrons who appreciate the commitment to sustainability.

The edible straws have generated buzz and goodwill for Tropical Smoothie while also reducing the company’s environmental impact. Despite a slightly higher cost, the straws have proven a wise investment thanks to benefits like higher sales, marketing exposure, industry awards, and brand reputation. As consumer environmental consciousness rises, creative solutions like Tropical Smoothie’s edible straw will continue gaining support and adoption.

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