How Costa, Starbucks and Prets’ autumn drinks stack up nutritionally

Trendy autumnal drinks are now front and centre on the menus of all of Britain’s best-loved coffee shops. While the seasonal beverages are a favourite across the country, Britons may be shocked to find out the sheer amount of calories, sugar and salt packed into offerings sold at Starbucks, Costa and the like.

MailOnline analysis shows that pumpkin spice-blended drinks at Starbucks have up to four times more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a third more calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

A simple maple hazel hot chocolate at Costa is just as sugary and bad for your waistline, but contains as much salt as two packets of Walkers ready salted crisps.

In response to the figures, campaigners called for rules that limit how much ‘unnecessary sugar’ companies pour into their drinks, while dentists said manufacturers have a ‘moral obligation’ to put people’s health before profits.

MailOnline analysis shows that pumpkin spice-blended drinks at Starbucks have up to four times more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a third more calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger. A simple maple hazel hot chocolate at Costa is just as sugary and bad for your waistline, but contains as much salt as two packets of Walkers ready salted crisps


Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

MailOnline looked at more than a dozen drinks included in seasonal menus at Starbucks, Costa, Pret, McDonald’s and Greggs.

Caffe Nero, the other major chain in the UK, has not released any similar products.

Our analysis focused on the medium versions of the drinks. Opting for a large cup, or choosing extra cream or syrups would only push the calories, sugar and salt even higher.

The worst offender on Starbucks’ extensive list of seven new drinks was the Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino Blended Beverage (£4.40).

The drink — a mix of coffee, pumpkin pie-flavoured sauce and milk, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices — has 379 calories. That is a fifth of a woman’s daily intake and 15 per cent of a man’s.

For comparison, a cheeseburger at McDonald’s has 298 calories.

Its ingredients also include 53.6g of sugar — equal to six-and-a-half scoops of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream and the most of all drinks this website looked at. For comparison, a Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut has four-times less, at 12.6g.

It also has 0.63g of salt, more than a medium McDonald’s fries and the equivalent of two packets of Walkers Ready Salted Crisps (0.34g).

The large version of the drink is even worse, with 444 calories, 67.6g of sugar and 0.78g of salt.

Among Costa’s four autumnal drinks, its Maple Hazel Hot Chocolate (£4.65) is the most calorific of all the drinks this website looked at.

The hot beverage has 393 calories and 48.9g of sugar — making it the second worst offender of all the seasonal drinks. It contains the most salt of any drinks, with 0.76g per medium mug.

Gregg’s pumpkin spice latte (£2.20) ranked middle of the board, containing 219 calories and 28g sugar. It also had the lowest level of salt (0g).

Pret’s take on the pumpkin spice latte (£3.65) contains 189 calories. The drink also has 26.2g of sugar and 0.15g of salt.

McDonald’s seasonal salted caramel latte was the least calorific of the autumnal drinks, with 164. It also contains 19g of sugar and 0.48g of salt.

Adults are advised to have no more than 30g of free sugars per day — those added to food or drinks, rather than those naturally found.

Both Starbucks and Costa’s autumn options surpass this threshold.

Eating too much sugar can cause weight gain, which over time raises the risk of heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. It can also cause tooth decay.

Meanwhile, over-18s are supposed to limit their salt to 0.6g per day, which is around one teaspoon.

Those who over-indulge are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.

Mhairi Brown, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Action on Sugar and Action on Salt told MailOnline: ‘Year after year, these sugar laden drinks pop up at every occasion — some of which contain more than an adult’s recommended daily limit of sugar in just one cup.


Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.

The type of sugars most adults and children in the UK eat too much of are “free sugars”, which includes any added to food and drink and sugars in honey, syrup and fruit juice.

But sugar found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables do not count as free sugars.

Adults are not supposed to have more than 30g of free sugars a day – around seven sugar cubes.

Children aged seven to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars (six sugar cubes), while those aged four to six should not have more than 19g (five sugar cubs).

Eating too much sugar can mean consuming too many calories, leading to weight gain.

Being overweight increases the risk of suffering heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Sugar is also one of the main causes of tooth decay.

Health chiefs advise Britons to have no more than a 150ml glass of fruit juice and smoothies per day and limit the amount of foods with high levels of free sugars.

‘But the public wouldn’t know this as the sugar content is not labelled.

‘This drives home the need for measures such as a comprehensive sugar reduction programme or a reformulation tax, as proposed in the National Food Strategy, to ensure that companies are discouraged from pouring in so much unnecessary sugar in the first place.

‘This would have a positive impact on our nation’s health and their teeth.’

Dr Linda Greenwall, a dentist in London and founder of the Dental Wellness Trust charity, told MailOnline: ‘Not only does the UK have very high rates of children living with obesity but also record numbers of children are suffering from tooth decay.

‘What’s worse is that this is completely avoidable and mainly due to consuming food and drink products which contain excessive, and often, hidden sugars.

‘Food and drink manufacturers have a moral obligation to put the health of our children before profits.’

It comes as England is in the grips of an obesity crisis, with 36 per cent of adults overweight and 28 per cent being obese.

Meanwhile, 15 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight, while a quarter are obese. Rates soared during the pandemic, with experts blaming a rise in junk food sales and lower levels of activity.

Campaigners have urged the Government to take action on the health crisis.

Calories added to menus of large businesses and banning junk food from being displayed at prominent store locations are steps already taken this year.

But ministers are now reviewing the rest of their anti-obesity strategy, which was expected to see junk food adverts banned before 9pm.

And they are event thought to be reviewing the sugar tax, which charges soft drink makers if their drinks are too sugar-laden, despite it being credited with causing Britons to consume less.

A Starbucks spokesperson said: ‘Starbucks is committed to helping customers make informed and improved choices that work for them, with all nutritional information available on our mobile app, online and our menu boards.

‘We also offer a range of beverage options which can be customised in a number of ways, such as by choosing our smallest size Tall or our oat dairy-alternative with no added sugar.’

A McDonald’s spokesperson said: ‘Our Salted Caramel Latte is available for a limited time only. All nutrition information is clearly displayed throughout the ordering process, in restaurant, on the app, and on our website’s nutrition calculator, helping customers make informed choices.’

A Costa Coffee spokesperson said: ‘All limited-edition autumnal drinks at Costa Coffee can be customised to reduce calorie and sugar content.

‘We are continually innovating our drinks to provide lower sugar or healthier alternatives without compromising on the great taste our customers enjoy.

‘We’ve made great progress reducing the sugar content of our drinks, meeting Public Health England’s 2021 20% sugar reduction target.

‘To help our consumers make an informed choice that is right for them, nutritional information is available in store on our menu boards and online.’

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