Cochineal Extract Update

 As I first shared on March 29, we’ve learned that we fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant in four food and two beverage offerings in the United States. Our commitment to you, our customers, is to serve the highest quality products available. As our customers you expect and deserve better – and we promise to do better.

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.

We thank you for your continued feedback, support and comments, and we encourage you to continue to share your thoughts here as well.

Best regards,

Cliff Burrows
president, Starbucks U.S.

4/19/2012 6:19 AM

Thank you so much Cliff and Starbucks for making this move!!!

Starbucks still remains one of my favorites!

Iron Arrow
4/19/2012 9:30 AM


While I didn't personally have a strong stance on this subject, it is encouraging and very respectable to see that Starbucks:

- values their customers

- has owned their actions

- has set clear goals/timeline for accomplishment

- is adjusting their business practices

- has shared these facts with their customers

Great customer service,


4/19/2012 9:35 AM

Thank you for the change. Would love to see an orange/mago frap added to the menue.

4/19/2012 9:39 AM

I don't see the problem. Are we worried about the bugs or health? Cochineal extract is a centuries old food coloring long proven safe. Using natural food coloring is certainly better than most alternatives.

4/19/2012 9:45 AM

  Its frustrating to see this, due to the fact that Starbucks switched to using the cochineal in order to go along with its customers whim for more natural & sustainable product, & when Starbucks makes a right move, there is an uproar about it even though it's what the people asked for. As far as the vegetarians and vegans who already have hard problems finding food, it only two drinks you can't get there, it's be fine to drink another :)

4/19/2012 9:48 AM

Maybe I'm a little naive but last I check strawberries are red. So if you are using 'REAL' strawberries in your drinks and food, there'd be no need for dyes/food coloring!

4/19/2012 9:49 AM

I understand that vegans may sensitive to this issue, and it is great to see Starbucks listen to their customers. But I still don't understand, and please forgive my ignorance on this issue and how these products are produced, but why do these drinks need these color additives in addition to the red color provided by the strawberries?  

4/19/2012 9:49 AM

Starbucks is one of the very FEW socially responsible companies I am aware of - and I'm sorry they had to spend so much time, money and effort on this ridiculous topic, but I am proud of them for doing it anyway!  Good for you for listening to your consumers, even if some of them more vocally concerned with something a lot of us couldn't care less about.  THAT is excellent customer service.

4/19/2012 9:53 AM

I am pleased to hear that there are changes being made. I'm just wondering if the tomato based coloring will cause concern to those allergic to tomatoes. Or if it's processed enough to not worry. Just a thought!!

4/19/2012 9:56 AM


He wrote:

Our expectation is to be fully transitioned to lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract...

They are going to continue using a natural food colouring, just one without any bug bits in it. It is quite off putting to those who strive for an insect free diet.

4/19/2012 9:59 AM

I would think that the raspberrys and strawberries in the drinks would provide enough color to begin with. Why add more color? I make my own smoothies (frappuccino like drink) at home with just plain yogurt, berries, milk and ice. It comes out with plenty of pinkish red color. I never use food color unless its for frostings.

4/19/2012 10:00 AM

Is the coloring used to dye the unhealthy HFCS?

4/19/2012 10:02 AM

ignorance is bliss...wake up America.  Cochineal is used is more products as a natural color than you realize.  It is one of the only "natural" red colorings that is heat stable therefore allowing manufacturers to bake with it and allowing it to survive the Pasteurization process.  Nearly every Red Velvet Cake product that is baked is colored with Cochineal if it is labeled with Natural Red Color.  BOO to Starbucks for giving in.  I for one am disappointed!

4/19/2012 10:10 AM

For some individuals (who may be neither radical, nor vegan) it is very much about health. There are people who are allergic to cochineal who can develop anaphylaxis as a result of exposure to even a small amount.

Regardless, kudos to Starbucks for being responsive to customer and employee concerns!

4/19/2012 10:12 AM

Starbucks and Cliff-

Woot-woot!!!  You guys are awesome and amazing and a big huge thanks goes out to you for taking this issue seriously!!  I have eaten the iced pink donuts on occassion and I'm happy to know that you're using a tomato based Lycopene product now!!  EVERY LARGE CORPORATION that uses red food coloring should take a lesson from you!!!!

To all the people who are pissy about Starbucks 'wasting' their time on this issue perhaps it is wise to remember that Starbucks is still a large corporation designed to make money...last time I checked, I still paid over $5 for my boutique coffee drink. If I don't want to eat a snack with bugs in it, and it's not personally affecting YOUR Starbucks experience, just chill out with the negativity and let Starbucks make the world a better place. If it offends you that much that Starbucks wants to do something GOOD for some of its customers you're welcome to go eat/drink bug guts elsewhere. ;-)

4/19/2012 10:12 AM

RE: strawberries and no added colorants.  Perhaps SB can confirm this but Most consumers seem to demand more "pink" than comes with fruit alone, especially in a commercial food product so colorants are a consequence of this marketing satisfaction angle.  There are also not enough strawberries grown to provide enough color for all the products that are strawberry flavored.  In the early 70s one of the profs at Cal Berkeley told us that if all the harvest of strawberries in the US was used to make just Strawberry ice cream, there would only be enough ice cream to meet the current demands of California.  (I know we get enormous amounts more of strawberries available now compared to then, but demand has also multiplied)

4/19/2012 10:22 AM

I am firmly against the killing of innocent tomatoes. Vegetables have rights, too.

4/19/2012 10:23 AM

Great I guess no more strawberry and creams for me or any of the others out there with an allergy to tomatoes. Way to go Starbucks.

4/19/2012 10:24 AM

Awesome!  Thanks for keeping us informed and for going the extra mile!

And for those of you thinking this is only affecting those vegans with too much to worry about already - it's not.

I have 2 neices that are completely allergic to eating or touching the dyes created from the little bugs.  Swelling of the tongue, migraines, fatigue to the point of passing out and much pain is what happens in a mild reaction.

They are teens and love Starbucks - I'm just glad they'll soon be able to enjoy all the offerings soon! :)

4/19/2012 10:26 AM

Thanks Starbucks!  It was actually after consuming one of your red velvet cupcakes (delicious by the way) that I discovered I have a severe food allergy to cochineal which caused an anaphalaxtic reaction.  So I for one am grateful :)

4/19/2012 10:30 AM

Honestly though, to make a perishable product like strawberries safe for national distribution and consumption requires a certain level of processing. I find it perfectly reasonable that additional red coloring might be necessary in a base that contains real strawberries. I support whatever means necessary to make a safe, quality product that people will enjoy.

I usually drink a Tall Veranda anyway.

4/19/2012 10:59 AM

I'm impressed with this move. I wasn't one of the vegetarian/vegans upset by the addition of cochineal extract (I just wasn't going purchase those products) rather, I was impressed by this move toward HEALTHIER products. I think Starbucks just "one-upped" itself by moving toward lycopene! Keep up the good work! It's move like this that ensure my loyalty to this awesome company!

4/19/2012 11:20 AM

Cliff, thank you for keeping Starbucks transparent to its customers. While I do understand the need to keep food products looking colorful and attractive, I am bothered with ingredients being used that cause inflammation in chronic pain and migraine sufferers just to make food look nice. Tomato-based products are notorious for inflammation as they are a member of the nightshade family of foods. I know of people who can become hospitalized from consuming such products. In a world where it is already difficult to eat out due to food allergies, will the employees behind the counter know which products will be containing this new food coloring that is derived from tomatoes?

Starbucks could very well end up on the growing list of places that we cannot spend time because of this which is a HUGE disappointment!  

4/19/2012 11:29 AM

Thank you so much for listening to our concerns. My vegetarian child will be so happy that she can soon have her beloved Strawberries and Cream Frappuccinos again. Thank you as well for not going back to an artificial dye.

4/19/2012 11:56 AM

Great move Starbucks! After reading the other comments I can see great points on both sides. To those who want natural bug free food, less processing, healthy food I sure hope you buy organic. Actually organic does have some bugs but can wash off. Go to to see what bugs

are in the rest of our foods allowed by our government. Stay away from canned and frozen foods as much as possible (unless you like maggots, aphids, etc in your food).    

Starbucks is trying and can't please everyone.

4/19/2012 3:06 PM

Why do you need coloring at all in your strawberry drinks? Just use the local berries from Washington. They will provide all the coloring you need. I speak from experience my smoothies are very colorful with out additives. I just use local Washington berries in the summer and frozen local berries in the winter.

4/19/2012 3:17 PM

THANK YOU Starbucks! My wife and I are vegan and were horrified to hear that you had started using bug juice in your strawberry drinks. We typically get them with soymilk and were planning on avoiding them from now on, but now we'll be able to consume them once again!

I'm also very pleased with your use of Lycopene as your new coloring agent. Lycopene is beneficial for your health and I'd be glad to consume it.

Thanks again Starbucks!

4/19/2012 3:40 PM

This has just been blown out of the water, no one knew before about it and yet they loved the pastries and beverages just the same. I'm proud of Starbucks for making a change however sorry for the immense criticism of the customers. I <3 Star$!

4/19/2012 4:46 PM


I think it's a great move.

To those being so critical, touting contradictory phrases like, "Ignorance is bliss... Wake up America."  Just because something has been done for so long, such as using cochineal as a food coloring, doesn't automatically make it the best solution out there. That's like saying it's better simply because it's been used out of tradition. This world - the American culture included - has a lot of "out of date" traditions that certainly aren't superior simply due to their long-held practice.

Vegetarians and vegans aren't the only ones to benefit from this move. There are many who are allergic to cochineal, too.

Granted, I suppose some may also be allergic to lycopene, but at least this way vegans and vegetarians AND those who are allergic to cochineal can benefit. It's likely many more people will benefit from this change vs. those who won't, such as those who may be allergic to lycopene.

If lycopene hasn't already been made a definite choice as a new colorant, perhaps something like beet juice or beet extract can be considered as a natural reddish color source.

Either way, thanks again, Starbucks! I for one appreciate and support this move.

4/19/2012 6:00 PM

So I see my previous comment was removed. Sad!!! Again, Starbucks, by blowing this out of proportion you will hurt farmers that depend on cochineal to make a living. I wonder if you know how much visibility and influence you have in this country. It's commendable that you want to satisfy your customer. I too, am a customer, I spend $5 dollars on a drink EVERYDAY. Removing my comment hurts my perception of you as a fair company and what you intend to represent, and you hurt my right to speak my mind like everyone else. It's good that you want to please everyone, but you can't! There will be people allergic to lycopene that will complain about it. And FYI, there are only a handful of cases on record about cochineal allergies that have been fatal. Compared to peanuts that's nothing. The president of Starbucks himself couldn't say it better: it's a fastidious process.

4/19/2012 9:38 PM

As someone with prickly pear cactus in his front yard full of cochineal, they're probably pleased to hear the news. But really, I thought the little critters were a pretty sustainable and healthy way to color the food and drinks. Alas.

4/20/2012 8:12 AM

Thanks so much. As a patron and shareholder it means alot to see you are concerned with customer feedback. To those who trivialize this, I am not a vegan, but I get it. Try being a little more sensitive and respectful to others' needs. Starbucks should be praised for its forward thinking and customer focus.

4/20/2012 10:53 AM

Well, now you have fallen short of the expectations of another set of customers. As a customer, I expect you to adhere to the principle that all your customers have views on issues such as this, and to respect us on the other side by not making changes just to silence a vocal minority. A disappointing decision to say the least.

4/20/2012 2:02 PM

Dear Mr. Burrows,

may I suggest Organic Lycopene?

Organic lycopene is different from the others (synthetic or natural), it is extracted from red-ripe organic tomatoes by an innovative procedure that does not involve chemical solvents, but supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2).

This process led to a final product 100% natural and organic certified (Certification ICEA No. IT BIO ICA PL0279).


Linkedin Profile=Pierre Chimica


The Exclusive Lycopene

The Only One Organic (Patented & Certified)

-Made in Italy-


Organic lycopene is extracted by supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) from red-ripe tomato matrices (not skins or other derived wastes). The extract is composed by a mixture of natural compounds, including, in addition to lycopene, other carotenoids ( b -carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin), polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), phytosterols and traces of vitamins .

Organic lycopene is obtained by extraction with supercritical carbon dioxide (SC-CO2) from organic certified red-ripe tomatoes. This process does not involve the use of chemical solvents, so the finished product is solvent-free, 100% natural and organic certified ICEA .


Organic lycopene is obtained from organic red-ripe tomatoes certified ICEA. Tomatoes are pesticides-free, dioxins-free, heavy metals-free, OGM-free.

Organic lycopene is obtained at moderate temperature (70°C) with a process based on an exclusively physic principle.

Because this procedure does not involve the use of chemical solvents, the finished product is:


toxic reaction by-products-free


Organic lycopene is the unique lycopene 100% natural without any form of toxicity.

4/20/2012 3:33 PM

Thank you Cliff and all of Starbucks!  I love your swift response to make so many people happy.


4/23/2012 10:34 AM

Hello Cliff,

I am surprised that a revolutionary company like Starbucks, keep using Cochineal Extract.

In the market there are many solutions that in mi opinion are better.

I am sure, your company can access to the Anthocyanins business.

We are a small Spanish Company, Specialize in two ingredients: Black carrot and grape skin extract. Black carrot is derived from carrot, achieving a superior result as a food colour than other common anthocyanins, since it keeps its features at higher pH levels and it is more stable to heat and light. Grape skin extract is a complex made by the combination of pigments that can be extracted from the skins of red grapes.

I am sure, your Execs can find these products in US.

Thanks to be so open and give us the the opportunity to share with you our ideas.

Grabbing a Sturbucks Coffee. ;-)

4/23/2012 1:39 PM

Thanks for sharing your comments with us.  

4/25/2012 12:13 PM

You've just lost me as a fan of your products. I will never drink your coffee or consume anything from your company again.

4/26/2012 10:17 AM

Okay! Now to just purge starbucks of anything that contains HFCS (Caramel drizzle used in caramel macciatos and caramel frapps) PLEASE :) even if it will cost the public a little more in price, its totally worth it! And stevia instead of splenda in syrups :) <3 sbux

4/30/2012 9:08 PM

As I mentioned in my 3/30 comment re: the issue of the cochineal extract, it is nice to see a company respond so well to customer feedback and be open to new ideas. However, having said that, as a leading food retailer who serves millions around the world, to me you missed a huge opportunity here to make a real difference in our industrial food chain. Because the unfortunate reality is that in the grand scheme of atrocities in industrial food production, cochineal extract is a drop in the bucket.  While it may have satisfied your vegan customers, none of your strawberry products (even AFTER you reformulate them with lycopene) will fit the marketing image that you’re trying to project of being a “socially responsible”, “green” company.

The point I was trying to make in my 3/30 comment is that you could have (still could if it’s not too late) use this opportunity (while reformulating your strawberry products) to substitute what I consider to be a MUCH more harmful substance in these products than cochineal extract -- the (genetically engineered) MAIN ingredient of the SOY ITSELF! (that by definition means exposure to chemical herbicides, insecticides and other potentially harmful chemicals) --- PARTICULARLY given that young children are consuming many of these products (a population where autism has skyrocketed in just the last few years to where it now affects 1 out of every 88 children born in the U.S. – and is almost certainly the result of our increased reliance on pesticides which are known neurotoxins, in particular to embryos).

So if you were REALLY SERIOUS about wanting to be “socially responsible”, “green”, your company would be switching to organic foods.  “Natural” is NOT the same as “organic”. In fact to the contrary, companies use the term “natural” as a marketing gimmick to fool customers into thinking foods are “organic” so that they can charge them/get them to pay significantly more for a product which in reality is no better quality than anything you’d get in a McDonald’s take-out  (and the even sadder thing is that most people reading this will have absolutely no idea what the significance of any of this is because it’s still not common knowledge – which is all the MORE reason why it’s such an important cause).

I completely disagree with earlier commenters who said that large scale demands chemical and other additives. This is not the case; there are very good (and large) companies who have already shown how it's possible to do without them (Stonyfield and Applegate to name just two).  Even Panera makes their yogurt up fresh each day using real strawberries.

Starbucks – your actions and your products do not match your marketing image.  Be a REAL “change agent” -- a true leader that inspires others to also want to make our food supply safer and the future of our food sustainable.  Anything less than this is just a marketing gimmick to make more money at the expense of your customers’ health.

7/8/2012 11:58 AM

We're so glad to hear cochineal or carmine has been removed as a food additive at Starbucks. I had my first and hopefully last experience with consuming cochineal in "naturally" colored red velvet cake, which caused me to have a severe allergic reaction (the first one in my life)!  The reaction was so serious I ended up in the hospital emergency with severe analyphalaxis! Please read up on cochineal and it's known connection to severe allergic reactions.

8/5/2012 7:24 PM

food dye in strawberry Frappuccino? why not just add um.. uh... REAL STRAWBERRIES!!!

8/5/2012 7:25 PM

food dye in strawberry Frappuccino? why not just add um.. uh... REAL STRAWBERRIES!!!

12/28/2012 10:36 AM

This is the time of year for reflection and celebrating the highlights of 2012. We love hearing what

Vancouver BCEE
1/6/2013 12:23 AM

I'm not phased by cochineal; it's harmless, all-natural and sort of neat.

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