Why did Starbucks discontinue sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup?

Starbucks made the decision to discontinue their sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup in 2016, much to the dismay of many customers who enjoyed the low calorie option. There are a few speculated reasons behind Starbucks’ choice to remove this popular syrup from the menu.

Declining Sales

One of the most commonly cited reasons for Starbucks discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup is that sales were low compared to other syrup flavors. The syrup was not one of Starbucks’ top sellers, so from a business perspective it made sense to cut the underperforming product. With hundreds of drink options on the menu, Starbucks has to be selective and trim offerings that are not profitable enough to justify the production and inventory costs.

While the sugar free cinnamon dolce did have a loyal following of health-conscious customers and diabetics who relied on it as a low sugar option, this niche market was likely not large enough to warrant keeping the syrup. Starbucks caters to mainstream consumer tastes, and the volume of sales for the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup did not meet thresholds to remain viable on a national scale.

Operational Simplification

In recent years Starbucks has made an effort to streamline operations and eliminate complex, time-consuming customizations in stores. Discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce allowed stores to reduce inventory and simplify drink preparation. This syrup required employees to stop and specifically pump sugar free sauce instead of the regular cinnamon dolce, costing valuable seconds when serving long lines of customers.

By eliminating the sugar free cinnamon dolce, Starbucks stores only need to stock the full sugar cinnamon dolce syrup. This allows faster drink preparation and easier training for staff as there are fewer customization options to remember. The efficiency gains from reducing redundant products like the sugar free cinnamon dolce likely outweighed the lost sales from disappointed low sugar customers.

Sugar Free Products Less Popular

Consumer demand for sugar free and low calorie products was very high in the early 2000s when the sugar free cinnamon dolce debuted on the Starbucks menu. However, tastes have changed over the past decade, with natural sugar and full fat products gaining popularity.

The pendulum has swung away from artificial sweeteners and low fat products, with consumers wanting more authentic ingredients and fuller flavors. Starbucks even reformulated its menu to reduce artificial ingredients as public sentiment shifted. The declining interest in sugar free options diminished the appeal of keeping the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup on the menu.

Supply Chain Challenges

Discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup may have also been an operational decision to simplify Starbucks’ vast supply chain. Producing and delivering customized ingredients like a sugar free syrup adds complexity to procurement and distribution networks.

With thousands of stores worldwide, streamlining operations where possible allows Starbucks to reduce costs and ensure timely delivery of core ingredients. Cutting a niche sugar free syrup streamlines the supply chain, allowing for improved efficiency and quality control on high volume core offerings.

Focus on New Products

Starbucks is constantly innovating with new drinks, flavors and menu items. The company likely cut the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup to free up resources and focus on launching fresh products that would drive more excitement and sales.

The permanent menu at Starbucks already contains hundreds of options. Periodically pruning low performers allows room for new seasonal flavors, innovative ingredients and impactful collaborations with brands like Ariana Grande. The sugar free cinnamon dolce was an outdated syrup that was likely sacrificed to make way for new hits like the pumpkin cream cold brew which grew 600% in popularity in 2019.

Health Concerns Over Sugar Substitutes

There is some speculation that growing concerns over artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which was used in the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup, may have contributed to Starbucks’ decision. While the FDA deems artificial sweeteners safe for consumption, some studies have linked them to problems like cancer or obesity.

As a brand centered on health and wellness, Starbucks may have felt uncomfortable continuing to offer an artificially-sweetened product as public sentiment grew skeptical. Phasing out the sugar free cinnamon dolce allowed Starbucks to simplify its offerings while avoiding potentially controversial artificial sweeteners.

Lower Profit Margins

Sugar free syrups typically have lower profit margins for food and beverage companies compared to full sugar versions. The artificial sweeteners needed to produce sugar free syrups cost more than real sugar. Starbucks possibly discontinued the sugar free cinnamon dolce because the thinner profit margins did not justify the operational complexity of procuring and stocking the more expensive sugar-free ingredients.

Taking the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup off the menu may have been an easy way for Starbucks to slightly improve profitability on cinnamon dolce syrup sales. Even if some customers switched to the full sugar version, the increased profit margins likely offset any losses from the removal of the sugar free version.

Growing Interest in Natural Sweeteners

Consumer interest in organic, natural and less processed foods has grown substantially. Major food and beverage companies like Starbucks have responded by reformulating products and removing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.

The growing preference for real, minimally processed ingredients likely diminished the appeal of an artificial sugar free syrup like cinnamon dolce. Simple syrups sweetened with organic cane sugar or agave fit better with evolving consumer demand for natural, less chemical-laden foods and drinks. Starbucks possibly discontinued the sugar free cinnamon dolce to realign with changing consumer values.

What was Starbucks’ official reason for discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup?

While Starbucks customers speculated a number of reasons why the popular sugar free cinnamon dolce was removed from menus, the company never provided an official explanation. In its public statement, Starbucks merely said the decision to discontinue the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup was made to “simplify offerings available in our stores.”

This vague language gives little insight into the specific factors behind cutting the sugar free syrup. By keeping the reason generic, Starbucks avoided fueling speculation about issues like artificial sweetener controversy or admitting declining popularity. An ambiguous “simplifying offerings” rationale gave the company maximum flexibility to phase out lagging products for any number of business reasons.

How did customers react when the sugar free cinnamon dolce was discontinued?

The reaction from Starbucks patrons was quite negative when the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup was suddenly discontinued without warning in January 2016. Loyal customers of this low calorie option felt frustrated that their go-to custom drink order had been taken away.

On social media, diabetes advocates launched a protest against the removal of one of their few “safe” menu choices at Starbucks. A Change.org petition begging Starbucks to bring back the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup accumulated over 128,000 signatures. Comments on Starbucks’ Facebook page calling for the return of the sugar free syrup piled up by the thousands.

However, despite the very vocal customer complaints, Starbucks held firm in its decision to simplify offerings by keeping the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup off the menu. As the months passed following its discontinuation, online buzz about the missing sugar free syrup gradually faded.

Sample Quotes from Customers Lamenting the Loss of Sugar Free Cinnamon Dolce Syrup:

“I’m deeply saddened that Starbucks discontinued the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup. As a diabetic, it was one of the few flavor options I could safely enjoy there. I hope they’ll consider bringing it back.”
“My mornings just haven’t been the same since Starbucks got rid of the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup. That was my go-to daily treat and I miss it so much!”
“I used to love my skinny cinnamon dolce lattes from Starbucks but now that the sugar free syrup is gone, I hardly ever go anymore. Such a disappointment they took away a great low calorie option.”
“I am absolutely devastated that I can no longer order my favorite sugar free cinnamon dolce cappuccino at Starbucks. I have many fond memories associating that drink with special occasions and holidays. Bring it back!”

Did Starbucks receive backlash over potential health concerns related to artificial sweeteners in the sugar free syrup?

There was minimal evidence that public health concerns over artificial sweeteners like aspartame contributed directly to Starbucks’ decision to discontinue the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup.

While there are some studies linking artificial sweeteners to health problems, major government regulatory agencies like the FDA still approve them as safe for consumption. There have been no mainstream bans or restrictions imposed on artificial sweeteners commonly used in the food industry.

When the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup was removed from Starbucks’ menu, there were no widespread public protests or boycotts related specifically to the artificial sweetener issue. Neither the company nor consumers mentioned this as a primary driver in the decision.

However, it is possible growing consumer wariness about additives like sugar substitutes generally contributed to declining demand for the sugar free syrup. But health concerns over artificial sweeteners seemed unlikely to be the direct, decisive factor behind Starbucks discontinuing this particular menu item.

Did Starbucks face pressure from health advocates to bring back the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup?

There were some calls from health advocates to reverse the decision on discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup, but not at a large scale. A few petitions and social media posts lobbied Starbucks to consider the needs of diabetic and low calorie diet consumers who wanted the sugar free option back.

However, major national health organizations never applied significant public pressure. While individual health-focused customers complained, there was no coordinated campaign from public health groups and nonprofits. Bringing back the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup did not become a headline social cause.

In the end, Starbucks likely determined the minority of sugar-conscious consumers demanding the product was not large enough to warrant overriding business interests. Health advocacy groups had bigger issues to tackle than a discontinued syrup flavor at one restaurant chain.

How could Starbucks have better handled the decision to discontinue the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup?

In retrospect, Starbucks could have employed better change management and public relations strategies when discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup. Some recommendations for handling similar decisions in the future:

  • Give advance notice – Provide warning well in advance before discontinuing a beloved product so customers can adjust and provide feedback.
  • Gradual phase-out – Slowly scale back availability rather than abruptly removing the product overnight.
  • Alternative options – Simultaneously debut a new sugar-free flavor to appease health-conscious consumers.
  • Customer conversations – Proactively engage with customer communities to understand concerns and reiterate reasoning.
  • values messaging – Frame the decision in terms of Starbucks’ values around responsible products and ingredients.
  • Focus group testing – Use consumer focus groups to gauge reaction to potential changes.
  • Customer survey – Ask loyalty members for input on menu decisions.

Taking proactive, customer-focused steps like these could have smoothed the transition and minimized backlash when Starbucks discontinued the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup in 2016.

Did the removal of the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup hurt Starbucks’ bottom line?

Discontinuing the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup does not appear to have significantly impacted Starbucks’ overall bottom line financial performance. In fiscal year 2016 when the sugar free syrup was removed, Starbucks’ revenues increased 10% to $21.3 billion and earnings per share rose 16%.

While some customers complained bitterly about the loss of their favorite low-calorie drink options, consumer spending at Starbucks continued growing steadily. Any lost sales from disappointed sugar free cinnamon dolce lovers were likely offset by popular new menu introductions like the Cherry Mocha.

In the years following the sugar free cinnamon dolce discontinuation, Starbucks continued achieving strong revenue growth quarter after quarter. The company’s decision to prune the underperforming sugar free syrup from menus did not noticeably impair Starbucks’ massive financial success.

Could Starbucks bring back sugar free cinnamon dolce or a similar sugar-free flavor in the future?

Starbucks has given no indication of plans to revive the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup or introduce a new sugar-free flavor. However, customer demand for low sugar options remains strong, so it is possible Starbucks may再浩考 a sugar-free flavor at some point.

Bringing back cinnamon dolce or innovating a new sugar-free syrup would appeal to health-focused consumers. But Starbucks would need to ensure the product generates sufficient profitability to justify the operational complexity.

With growing interest in natural sweeteners like stevia, Starbucks has an opportunity to develop an organic, low glycemic sugar-free syrup. Time will tell if consumer pressure and values alignment eventually spur Starbucks to reenter the sugar-free flavor game.


Starbucks’ decision to discontinue the sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup in 2016 stemmed from a combination of factors, including slowing sales, supply chain streamlining, and shifting consumer preferences. The loss of this low calorie flavor option generated significant customercomplaints but little long-term impact on Starbucks’ operations or finances.

Looking ahead, Starbucks remains focused on innovating its menu and may eventually add a new sugar-free option if consumer demand and manufacturing capacities align. But the discontinued sugar free cinnamon dolce has remained a nostalgic relic of Starbucks’ past, not a part of its future.

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