In response to consumers, Starbucks has decided to stop using a red food coloring derived from beetles.
In March, it was brought to light Starbucks had changed some ingredients and that some of the formerly vegan menu items are no longer actually vegan.
Digital Journal reported last month a barista working for Starbucks wrote to website This Dish is Vegetarian to inform them several menu items were not vegan due to inclusion of the ingredient cochineal extract.
Cochineal extract (also called carmine dye) is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration government-approved coloring that is comprised of crushed female cochineal insects, a type of beetle. Many products contain this approved natural ingredient, however it does not fit within a vegan diet.
Starbucks has responded to this situation citing the company "fell short of your [consumer] expectations" and has decided to stop using cochineal extract and replace this coloring with tomato-based lycopene instead.
In a blog post dated Apr. 19, Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks, said, "After a thorough, yet fastidious, evaluation, I am pleased to report that we are reformulating the affected products to assure the highest quality possible. Our expectation is to be fully transitioned to lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract, in the strawberry sauce (base) used in our Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino® blended beverage and Strawberry Banana Smoothie."
Burrows continued, "Likewise, we are transitioning away from the use of cochineal extract in our food offerings which currently contain it (Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing, and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie)."
The timetable for the transition is slated to occur by the end of June, and Starbucks said they "promise to do better," thanking customers for their feedback and communication.
The LA Times reported over 6,500 individuals had signed a Change.org petition. Starbucks is not alone in using this coloring, as it is FDA approved, however requirements say it must be labeled, reported Dow Jones Newswires courtesy of Fox News.