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Del Taco Is First Major Fast Food Chain To Add Popping Boba To Their Menu

Popping boba, encapsulated pearls that burst when you bite into them, have yet to make it onto the menus of major fast food chains in America. While they’ve become popular at froyo shops — the concept of boba and its popularity have been a thing for a while now — it has yet to penetrate the biggest chains in food.

Photo courtesy of Del Taco

That all changed with Del Taco’s most recent introduction, Sprite Poppers. Made with popping boba topped over Sprite and ice, the new drinks mark the first time a major fast food chain has added the unique topping to their menu.

Del Taco’s offer consists of two flavors, mango or cherry popping boba, that are piled on top of the iced beverage. The drinks cost $1.29 each, roughly the same price as a small soft drink.

For those curious, popping boba is typically made by encapsulating a liquid, such as juice or flavored syrup, within a “shell” made from a calcium solution and sodium alginate, which is a gelling protein found in seaweed. It’s the reaction between the calcium and alginate protein that leads to the gel-like capsules to form.

They’re typically difficult to make at scale, making Del Taco’s addition of these drinks noteworthy. Whether it leads to more popping boba drinks coming to fast food, or even the addition of real boba itself, remains to be seen.

Del Taco’s Sprite Poppers will be available for a limited time.

Culture Drinks Fast Food

The First ‘Made In USA’ Boba Is Finally Here, And It Could Be HUGE For Fast Food

Boba’s popularity has grown to encompass the entire United States. With that has come the exploration of incorporating milk tea into fast food. Panda Express has looked into the possibility, and there was an April Fool’s prank this year that had people thinking Starbucks was doing the same. That could actually be a reality now, though, as the US finally has its own tapioca pearl factory up and running.

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Created by The Boba Guys co-founders Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, US Boba Company is now starting to test its first set of tapioca pearls from off of their production line. They’re not the first business to make the chewy balls in-house, as companies like the now-closed Pulse Cafe in Santa Monica have done it before. However, Chau and Chen do have the first in-country factory to make them with, something that could be huge for major chains looking to add the drink to their menus.

It’s not like fast food hasn’t looked into adding tapioca in the past, as McDonald’s has run a limited-time batch of milk tea in Germany before. But bringing in ingredients from other countries comes with a host of regulations and red tape, something fast food companies could now avoid thanks to US Boba Company. They could potentially get all of the pearls they need to consider regional, or even national, launches of bubble tea to continue to proliferate the spread of boba.

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That may not happen for a while, as Chau and Chen continue to test and improve on their initial runs of tapioca pearls. For now, though, you can try them out at the Potrero Hill location of Boba Guys in San Francisco. There will also be the opportunity to visit and tour the new factory in the near future, and photos and footage of it will be displayed on social media so everyone can see how the pearls are made.