One of the simple pleasures that come from living in the era of globalization, is the joy of travelling overseas and sampling local menus from your favorite chain restaurants and cafes. For this writer at least, every journey to a new country has to begin with a trip to Starbucks. Aside from providing a caffeinated cure for jet lag, local Starbucks menus offer a glimpse of your host country’s culture.

Take Japan, for example, the Matcha Frappuccino and assorted matcha confectionery reveal the national love of green tea. Or in Canada, the maple-flavored latte is literally comprised of the nation’s most prolific sweetener.

On the other hand, Starbucks is also a reliable place to enjoy familiar fare. Regardless of location, all Starbucks offer lattes, or cookies, and more than likely a slice or two of chocolate cake. Starbucks then offers a taste of home too.

So it was a great surprise to me, when I first came to Japan and peered through the glass counter that displays the food, that carrot cake was nowhere to be seen. Until now, every Starbucks in every country I had ever visited had carrot cake in some form or another. Europe, America, the U.K. Carrot cake aplenty. Japan’s Starbucks, and I imagine those in other parts of Asia too, however, seems not to have taken to root vegetable cakes. But all that is about to change.

Starbucks Japan releases limited edition Carrot Cake

As of June 23rd, 2021, a historical day indeed, customers are able to buy a whole carrot cake from Starbucks Japan’s online store. The cake is traybake style and packed full of carrots, raisins, nuts and spices, as well as a generous topping of tangy cream cheese frosting. The website promises a rich, spicy cake that exudes fruit and flavors of carrots; the perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of coffee.

There’s no doubt, it looks and sounds like the real thing. Carrot cake fans have reason to be excited, ecstatic even. But the really interesting thing about this cake is its sustainable production process.

Starbucks Japan make their carrot cake with carrots grown in compost that uses recycled espresso shot cakes straight from the Starbucks store. Japan’s stores alone produce around 16.5 KG of espresso-bean cake every day, accounting for about 70% of each store’s waste. By turning the bean cake refuse into compost, Starbucks are able to grow ingredients like carrots which they then use in their food products. This, to use the Starbucks lingo, creates a sustainability “loop” that begins and ends with every store.

This writer is personally delighted that Starbucks’ commitment to sustainable business and environmental conservation has resulted in the long-overdue release of carrot cake in Japan. Most importantly, Starbucks’ sustainability loop initiatives are part of the organization’s broader goal of achieving 50% total waste reduction across their business by 2030. So even if carrot cake is a take-it-or-leave-it menu item for you, it may be worth purchasing to support the world’s biggest coffee chain to be more sustainable.

Starbucks’ Carrot Cake product and purchase information

  • Product name / price: "Carrot cake" Hall type 12.5 cm pound type, ¥ 3,240 (inc. tax)
  • Sales period: From June 23, 2021 (Wednesday) * Ends as soon as it runs out
  • Product page on Starbucks Japan's online store

Starbucks’ sustainability initiatives

Starbucks is launching two new “loop initiatives”, which are designed to promote sustainable production of new products for stores by recycling old products and waste from stores. The first of these is the turning used coffee bean cakes which are created every time Starbucks pulls an espresso into compost. The compost is used to grow ingredients such as carrots, or even matcha to make matcha cake bars. The initiative began in Japan in 2014, and currently, a total of 320 stores nationwide recycle their coffee bean cakes. Additionally, the cakes are used to create feed for cows which eventually helps the cows to make the milk used by Starbucks in many of its drinks.

The second sustainability initiative is a plastic tumbler recycling program. From June 21st, 2021 until August 31st, 2021, 500 Starbucks across Japan will be accepting old plastic Starbucks brand tumblers from customers, who in return can receive a 5% coupon for in-store use. The collected tumblers will be recycled by Starbucks and used to make new goods in the future. You can learn more about this initiative on Starbucks Japan's website .

Only plastic Starbucks brand tumblers can be recycled at Starbucks.

Non-Starbucks tumblers and tumblers made from materials other than plastic cannot be recycled.

By - Toby M.