Can a fast food chain beat a coffeehouse chain at its own game?

In Japan, Starbucks has cornered the market for creamy frappes, with its incredibly popular, and constantly evolving, lineup of Frappuccinos. However, McDonald’s has been testing Starbucks’ market share with a range of frappes of their own, which up until now were only on the menu at select branches that contained McCafe by Barista cafe corners.

However, from 5 July, the fast food chain upped its game, adding its Oreo Cookie Chocolate Frappe, along with another formerly McCafe-exclusive menu item, the Mango Smoothie, to the vast majority of Japan’s regular McDonald’s branches, even the ones without McCafes.

That means the frappes can now be purchased at 2,144 out of 2,978 McDonald’s branches, and it was introduced with an advertising campaign and commercial starring Japanese actor and former SMAP member Takuya Kimura — commonly known as Kimutaku — who’s like the Brad Pitt of Japan, given his longstanding popularity and household-name heart-throb status.

Now, just over a month later, McDonald’s has already begun adding new limited-edition flavours to the lineup, with the release of the White Chocolate Strawberry Frappe, which also comes with a new commercial starring Kimutaku and actress Suzu Hirose.

▼ The commercial received over a million views on YouTube in just over a week.

With such big stars promoting the frappes, people around Japan, like our own reporter Anji Tabata, have been keen to try them. The new frappe is available in two varieties — the White Chocolate Strawberry Frappe (490 yen [US$3.35) and the White Chocolate Strawberry Frappe & Macaron Raspberry (610 yen), the latter of which comes with a raspberry macaron.

▼ Anji likes her sweets sweet, so she ordered the frappe with the macaron.

Judging by first impressions, the drink looked just as gorgeous as a Frappuccino — perhaps even more gorgeous when you consider it’s topped with a macaron — but would it taste just as delicious?

Taking a sip, Anji’s taste buds were flooded with berry flavours, and the tart sweetness of the fruit was rounded off beautifully with the cream. The strawberry sauce on the whipped cream topping ensured that the fruit remained the star flavour, allowing it to sing out above the milky ingredients in every mouthful.

It was a great drink, and one that was made even better by the fact that it contained juice from local Tochiotome strawberries, a prized variety in Japan. The sweet and tart flavour profile of the base was a wonderful complement to the equally sweet and tart raspberry macaron, which tasted divine when eaten between sips of the drink.

Anji admits that she was dubious about the drink at first, not only because it comes from a chain that specialises in fries and burgers, but because it was relatively expensive for a McDonald’s menu item. However, it ended up exceeding her expectations, being far more delicious than she could’ve imagined, so she was satisfied not only with the flavour, but the price she paid for it as well. It may not be as sophisticated as a Starbucks Frappuccino, but it’s a very good competitor that might just give the coffeehouse chain a run for its money in the near future.

So next time you’re at McDonald’s, you might want to try their frappes, especially if there’s a new limited-edition release on the menu. Hopefully by the time spring rolls around, they’ll have a cherry blossom frappe to go with their sakura pies!

Photos © SoraNew24
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[ Read in Japanese ]