Starbucks Stops Using Bug Extract In Products

Cochineal extract has the vague name one would come to expect from a food ingredient. And for years, it’s been used as a food coloring option for people looking to get a nice red hue in their edible items. But what some folks don’t know is the “cochineal” in cochineal extract is a tiny insect that is pulverized to make the red dye.

Starbucks had been using cochineal extract to give some color to two of its Frappuccino flavors and a handful of food items, hoping that customers would be glad it wasn’t using artificial coloring agents. But the coffee colossus only managed to anger vegan customers and others who were icked out by the insect thing (even though it’s widely used in a variety of other food products).

So today, Starbucks’ President Cliff Burrows announced it was ditching the buggy coloring in favor of a tomato-based colorant:

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. 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).

This transition will occur over time as we finalize revisions and manage production. Our intention is to be fully transitioned from existing product inventories to revised food and beverage offerings near the end of June across the U.S.



Edit Your Comment

  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Pink slime round 2. Gotta love the effect of having the vast majority of the world’s population so removed from agriculture and food processes.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I don’t get how people being aware of dead bug juice in their drinks and wanting it removed is people being removed from their food supply. I am very aware of the accidental killing of bugs during food processing, and that there is a certain ppm that is allowed, but purposely killing bugs for coloring that they could just leave out or get from a plant based source is just unnecessary. I am glad that people have stood up and convinced Starbuck’s to take it out. It’s actually a result of people being more aware of their food supply and not less.

  2. JollehRoger says:

    This cracks me up. So they stop using a natural extract and are just going to turn to science for the food coloring they need. This is why we have weight epidemics and zombies.

  3. clippy2.0 says:

    “He then added, ‘I hope you enjoy us having to double the price of drinks due to retooling and cutting of old contracts and starting new ones. We pass the savings directly to you!'”

  4. Zowzers says:

    I have to say Meh to this. Seems like such a non-issue in the grand scheme of things.

  5. Crazydog says:

    What’s wrong with using bugs? Is it just the vegans/vegetarians complaining? If you eat meat, don’t complain about eating bugs. You probably eat crustaceans like shrimp and lobster, which are just larger bugs that live underwater.

    • LanMan04 says:

      No kidding. They’re giant water-spiders (well, they’re all arthropods, you get the idea).

      I guess that means giant spider meat (tarantula?) tastes like….crab?

    • Firethorn says:

      Civilized world squeamishness.

      I’m a ‘if it’s tasty, I’ll eat it’ type outside of known poisons.

    • majortom1981 says:

      Don’t tell vegans that. next they will be surprised that there is a chance of eating bugs when they bite into a vegtable also.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Have you never heard a vegetarian whine or a vegan wail? Protein starvation causes hormonal changes that raise the voice pitch two octaves, and self-righteousness raises it by about 15 dB. We must cave at all costs, because vegans must have strawberry frappucinos – or everybody else’s eardrums will burst.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Vegetarians and vegans are customers too. There must have been a pretty big outcry for them to change. I wouldn’t call it caving, I would call it meeting customer demand, which is smart. Now that most of their drinks are vegan friendly lots of vegans sing their praises. There are entire threads on vegan message boards devoted to Starbuck’s love. It’s one of the few places where you can consistently get vegan coffee drinks. Heaven forbid a company do something to gain or keep customers.

        I have a feeling that if they were trying to keep “regular” customers it would be okay with you and you would praise them. But somehow, when anyone mentions the word vegetarian or vegan people get all up in arms about it. The rage against veg*ns is asinine.

  6. Cat says:

    But… but… They’re ORGANIC and NATURAL!

  7. Sarek says:

    So when I was served “bug juice” in camp, they weren’t kidding?

  8. ironflange says:

    Big deal. We’ve all eaten far far worse things than this and never even known it.

    • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

      Beaver anus extract… yummy.

      In the United States, Castoreum has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive, often referenced simply as a “natural flavoring” in the product’s list of ingredients. It is commonly used in both food and beverages, especially as vanilla flavoring.

      • BlueHighlighterNextToACoozie says:

        So if I am ever craving vanilla flavor in the wild I can lick a beavers anus?

      • borgia says:

        It is technically possible to use beaver glands in food products. However, the general limited supply and therefore high cost precludes that possiblity. Artificial vanilla aka vanillin which is synthetically created, dominates the flavoring industry. You would most likely find beaver glands used in the perfume industry. It is too expensive to use in the food industry. I am also deliberately using the phrase gland, not anus since it is not the anus that is used or has any function for this use. There is a scent gland located near the anus that is used.

  9. MedicallyNeedy says:

    Cochineal extract or smashed up bugs were also in Hostess Sno Balls. So? There is meat in your Altoids. I’d rather eat bugs.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Snoballs are now white. I wonder why they took the color out. They have marshmallow, which contains gelatin, which is made from boiled animal skins and bones (mostly pig these days.) They certainly aren’t vegan (which is fine.) Maybe they wanted them to look more like real snow balls??

  10. theconversationalist says:

    …thorough, yet fastidious, evaluation…

    Isn’t that kind of a redundant statement?

  11. Jawaka says:

    Part of the marketing behind selling the kinds of products that Starbucks carries is making them sound yummy and unfortunately no matter how good your marketing team is you just can’t make bugs sound yummy. I guess the moral to the story is that if you KNOW you’re eating bugs it’s a whole lot yuckier than eating bugs and not knowing about it.

  12. Rebecca K-S says:

    It irks me when people substitute “vaguely named” for “I don’t know what those words mean.”

  13. captadam says:

    This is a surprise? When I was in high school in the 90s, we had an Ocean Spray machine. Kids used to get cans of fruit juice, point to carmine in the ingredients, and say, hey, that’s ground up bugs! We all knew it.

  14. NumberSix says:

    It’s just a bug. You’ve all been eating it for decades. Deal with it.

  15. LanMan04 says:

    Want to know why we can’t have nice things? VEGANS

    Goddamn food nazis….

    • dks64 says:

      Squashed bugs are nice things? It’s an unnecessary food additive. Just get rid of it and leave the frapp its natural color. I don’t need my foods to be brightly colored for me to eat/drink them.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      What? This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard of in my life. Ground bugs aren’t needed to make a smoothie taste good/nice. They could leave the coloring out. Instead, they are using lycopene, which is actually good for you. It’s probably the healthiest thing in those smoothies.
      The world also caters to omni’s, not vegans (do you know hard it is to eat out as a vegan?) I hardly think a company here and there making something consumable by vegans keeps anyone from having good things. You might want to check your logic there.

  16. daemonaquila says:

    Meh, I’m fine with the bugs. I suppose some Vegans will be happy, but there’s really no reason to stop using cochineal. It’s not a “pink slime” situation where there’s a quality and contaminant issue.

  17. MeowMaximus says:

    But I love the flavor of bug parts in the morning!

  18. Polish Engineer says:

    Serious but stupid question… where is the vegan line? At what point does something become OK on the vegan list? Beer has yeast in it. Yogurt has bacteria cultures. When you think about it, baking a loaf of bread like dooming millions of yeast to a fiery death…

    • dks64 says:

      Please say you’re kidding. Yeast is not an animal.

      • Polish Engineer says:

        I’m only half kidding. I truly don’t get the vegan thing. I can see if you don’t want to support chickens being raised for slaughter in a massive industrial center in cages so small they can’t turn around it. I completely understand that.

        BUT, when you start to get worried about bugs then I get lost.

      • borgia says:

        Animal: any of a kingdom (Animalia) of living things including many-celled organisms and often many of the single-celled ones (as protozoans) that typically differ from plants in having cells without cellulose walls, in lacking chlorophyll and the capacity for photosynthesis, in requiring more complex food materials (as proteins), in being organized to a greater degree of complexity, and in having the capacity for spontaneous movement and rapid motor responses to stimulation

        • dks64 says:

          Yeast is a fungus, not animal.

          • borgia says:

            I wasn’t claiming it was. I was pointing out that stating “Yeast is not an animal” as a statement does nothing to draw a usefull boundary. As the animal classification extends down to one-celled organisms.

            • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

              Don’t bother arguing. Just let them have fun playing “Defensive Omni Bingo” alone. They’ve already hit one square. Defensive Omni Bingo.

            • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

              No, they do not go down to things like that. Fungi and Bacteria are their own kingdom. Animalia are all multi-celled eukaryotes. You have no clue what you are talking about.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          It’s actually in the fungi kingdom not the animalia kingdom. Fungi are not animals.So, you’ve built your argument on a false premise.

  19. sir_eccles says:

    Perhaps it is our perception of what food should be now that instead of say relying on the natural redness of the strawberries in the strawberry sauce we have to add tomato extract to make them redder.

    • AuntySemantic says:

      That’s the reason these coloring additives are used. If something is not bright pink many people won’t think it’s strawberry. If you’ve every made homemade stuff like ice cream using strawberries that you’ve ground up and pulped yourself you know that they don’t impart anything near the pinkness of the commercial stuff.

    • elangomatt says:

      Remember when Clear Pepsi came out? I didn’t think it tasted much different than regular Pepsi but it flopped big time because people thought it was drastically different than regular Pepsi since there was no caramel color to make it the classic cola color.

  20. ChuckECheese says:

    I’m a vegan gluten- and lycopene-free-liac. What am I to do?

    • elangomatt says:

      Just go find yourself some of that white goop that Morpheus, Neo, et all eat on the Nebuchadnezzar. Supposedly it has all the stuff a growing body needs and it doesn’t look like it could possibly come from any plant or animal. Do they even have any plants or animals (for food) in the real world outside of the matrix?

    • shthar says:

      not have any kids.

  21. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Plants have feelings too! Go back to red-40, it does great things to the human body

  22. samonela says:

    Dear Vegans,

    Thanks for ruining something else.


    A Vegetarian

    • dks64 says:

      I’m a vegetarian and still don’t want to eat crushed up bugs. It’s an unnecessary additive. This isn’t just a problem with vegans, a lot of people are unhappy about it.

  23. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    Would you like some ketchup on your Frap?

  24. PsiCop says:

    Just goes to prove, hell hath no fury like a sanctimonious vegan or militant vegetarian who finds out s/he’s been ingesting infinitesimal amounts of animals without knowing it.

    I’d say they might have a legitimate complaint, had “cochineal extract” not been listed as an ingredient. If it was, well … you shoulda Googled it long ago. And no one’s making you buy ’em, in any event; order something else, fercryinoutloud.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Sounds to me like you are the one being sanctimonious by attacking vegans and putting them down. I don’t see any vegans here attacking meat eating. I’ve never once met a sanctimonious vegan. I belong to several vegan and vegetarian message boards and none of the people on there are that way. Many of us really dislike that behavior. It’s actually omnis who attack vegans far more. They try to come on to our message boards and start crap. I’ve never seen that happen on an omni cooking message board etc… The rage that vegans get from meat eaters is pretty confusing.

    • dks64 says:

      The problem is, it USED to be vegan and when they changed it, they didn’t inform customers of the change.

  25. shthar says:

    So now they’re killing tomatoes?

    And where exactly does this ‘milk’ come from?

  26. mingtae says:

    What would Mary think . . . er Cearie, Kerry, Carrie??

  27. Ayla says:

    Thanks vegans. Now we can all get the wonderful health benefits of Red40 instead of those nasty, but natural, little buggies.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      Guess you didn’t read the whole thing, huh?

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      RTFA. They are using coloring derived from tomatoes. The other option is to leave the color out. Neither will affect the taste.

  28. neilb says:

    1) People will drink more stupid-ccinos if they are colorful. Humans base gastronomic appeal largely upon sight.
    2) Insects are in nearly all food. There is no question as to whether you eat them. You do.
    3) Insects CAN be considered to be vegan–this is ambiguous. I suggest that we do consider them vegan because even the most hardcore vegan eats a lot of bugs, albeit unintentionally.
    4) Insects are a natural source of food for humans and we should accept this. I have eaten mealworms and crickets–they are fine. I look forward to trying cicada tenerals. We need to stop being such wusses and accept the larger picture of what human food is all about. I would rather eat insects than corn syrup or hydrogenated soy products. :)

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Veganism is about doing what you can. We can keep from eating items that purposely have bugs in them. We cannot avoid bugs that end up in the food supply unintentionally. With that said, the coloring is not necessary for it to taste good. I would actually prefer a light pink color. Plus, you don’t have to make a choice between eating bugs, corn syrup or hydrogenated soy products. You are free to any/all/none of those things.

      Facing what is in the food supply and avoiding intentional harm to living creatures are not mutually exclusive. You present them as if they are, but they aren’t.