Starbucks announces that they’ll be removing cochineal extract from their products

Those Starbucks customers who were concerned about having a totally vegan diet will soon be able to enjoy a Strawberry Frappuccino again.  After wide-spread news, Starbucks has announced that they will be removing cochineal extract from their strawberry sauce, and ultimately all of their products.  As many may recall, this was described in the news as an extract from beetles or “crushed bugs.”  Here’s a Seattle Times article on this change.

Here is the official announcement: blogs – Cochineal extract update article by Cliff Burrows, President of Starbucks Americas.

While I personally was never offended by the use of cochineal extract, I think that it is impressive how swiftly Starbucks is acting to respond to their vegan customers.  And I can easily support the idea of a more natural food coloring alternative in the strawberry sauce.

I realize this update has already been spread widely in the news, but it is important enough that I decided to mention it here.

(I categorized this under Cliff Burrows.)

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  • purple1

    I am glad that SB is taking this action no matter how it came about. As they are doing this I would also hope they would consider removing gelatin from some of their products. I think they need to carefully review the ingredients on all their products and modify them accordingly.

  • Supersteives

    A local coffee place by my house makes their version of a Straberry Frapp. only they take freeze dried strawberries and put them in the spice grinder and make a powder that they add to it. Very pink and real color from the strawberries.
    I read that they will now use a Tomatoe based coloring from Lycopene? Don’t know why they do not just use the real thing to make a REAL COLOR. I would also think that a real freeze dried strawberry would be vegan?

  • Sandra Trolinger

    I wonder if it was really a vegan outcry or if it was the “gross” factor of bug juice being used? :)
    Any how it is still impressive to see them respond to the customer and make adjustments in their recipe.
    Now, if they would only bring back Mexico Shade Grown Organic coffee. No vegans complained loudly enough on that coffee exiting the lineup. :(

  • CD

    Starbucks started using this additive a couple of years ago when Michelle Gass and company made a big push for better ingredients.

    Ironically, Starbucks removed the artificial ingredients and trans fats from everything but they didn’t change their syrups. Raspberry Syrup still contains Red Dye #40 – which is petroleum based – and outlawed in many countries. A lot of people are allergic to Red Dye #40. But Starbucks continues to offer it.

    What I find ironic about this is Starbucks was very transparent about the use of carmine – they didn’t try to cover it up. But they have been misleading about their better ingredients push while still continuing to offer artificial colors in their syrups. It’s odd to me how quick they were to respond to this small uproar about a non-vegan offering, while still continuing to use artificial additives that have been banned in many countries.

  • kara86ster

    That’s good news! Currently we have two red velvet products here, a cake and a whoopie pie. I think both was in the list of using the extract? I’m sure people will buy it more once this matter is resolved… =)

  • denise r

    I’m glad, I guess, for all those who were so freaked out by this but personally, I really don’t care. also agree whole-heatedly with what CD wrote.

  • Suzanne C

    Melody, out of respect for you and your blog I really try to keep my negative comments to myself but…….

    When you walk into a commercial establishment I feel as though you should check your entitlement at the door. If you don’t like something on the menu because it offends your sensibilities then just get something else.

    I don’t eat red meat but I don’t expect to walk into, let’s say an Outback Steakhouse and expect them to take beef off the menu!

    One morning, during “rush hour”, I was getting my morning Starbucks and a woman walks up to the counter, orders a latte and announces in a very loud voice, “I am DEATHLY ALLERGIC TO SOY so you need to use a sterilized pitcher and spoon. You can’t use something that has been used before!” The Partners went scrambling trying to please her while the line was backing up behind this woman. The she proceeded to watch and instruct on how to make her latte. It took, what seemed like an eternity, to get her out the door.

    My thoughts were, if you are so “deathly allergic to soy” make your damn coffee at home! If you are a vegan don’t like bug extract in your strawberry frapp at Starbucks, then just don’t drink the frapp!

    Again, check your entitlement at the door.

  • CD

    @Suzanne – I agree with you, but I will say the Red Dye #40 issue is a bit different. Starbucks made a big promotional push about removing artificial ingredients but they continued to use Red Dye #40 in their Raspberry syrup. Interestingly, Starbucks launched Dark Cherry syrup after this promotional push and it did not have any added color. Color isn’t really necessary in syrup so why add the Red Dye #40 in the first place?

    (I know you were talking about Soy so sorry for the soapbox)

  • denise r

    @Suzanne C: great example!

  • purple1

    I have been thinking for a few days about Suzanne’s comments and have mixed feelings about it. I certainly feel that the customer she spoke about was over the top. That being said as a vegetarian I am always looking at labels or asking about ingredients. It is true that there are many places that serve meat, etc. and I still go to them but I am sensitive to where sometimes the vegetarian options are made. I guess I just would like to see SB as natural as possible. Certainly, if Evolution Fresh can do it, then SB can go in that direction.

  • Barb the French Bean

    I really wasn’t that shocked to hear about the cochineal extract (I had first read about it years ago in Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation”), but I do have to wonder why the strawberry-based drinks don’t have some sort of strawberry powder/extract in the first place.
    I remember that I once bought two different commercially-produced yogurt smoothies. One used the real fruit, the other relied on flavorings and cochineal extract to provide the pinkish hue. There was certainly a noticeable difference in their tastes, the former being of better quality. 😛

    As for the coloring replacements: lycopene from tomatoes? Beetroot extract also works.

  • CC

    A Vegan would not be drinking the Stawberry Cream Frappuccino, it’s made with milk which is from an animal…duh.

  • Rebecca

    With soy and no whip, quite a few of our frappuccinos were supposed to be vegan. And I *believe* the strawberry was marketed as such…I could be wrong, but given how fast they reacted to the cochineal extract, I think that is the case. There is no dairy in the strawberry juice itself, so the ‘cream’ part of the name comes from the milk used. No cow’s milk = no animal. :) Hence, if something in the strawberry juice that comes from an animal, no strawberry for vegans. And that’s a suuper popular flavour to lose off the vegan menu!

  • Melody

    @Rebecca – Thanks for your help – I have been meaning to get back to this. Yes, I think you’re right on the money. If you substitute soy milk, and have no whip, then I think it’s supposed to be a vegan drink. I think 2 years ago when Starbucks did the big push for the customizable frappuccino, this was part of the reason why -to be able to pull in the vegetarian/ vegan customers.

  • CD

    I just saw the new online Frappuccino ad and it dawned on me why Starbucks was so swift in this action. It’s Frappuccino season. They specifically call out a “soy strawberries and creme” frappuccino in the ad. They didn’t want to lose that demographic and/or have the boat rock too at the start of this big season.

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