Boycott Watch  
April 19, 2012
Starbucks Responds to Boycott Watch & Consumer Demand,
Will Phase-out Insects in Drinks
Summary: Starbucks should have never used ground-up bugs as an ingredient, but eventually did the right thing by removing it.
    Prior to the Boycott Watch reports March, 2012 about how Starbucks was using ground-up insects to color some of their drinks red, we had also reported how various groups were asking the US FDA to ban the bugs as food coloring.

   Carmine / "cochineal extracts" are used to create vibrant red in food. The names, however, don't reveal the facts of the product, which are just crushed insects. You can see the process in this video as well as this one.

   After three weeks of intense consumer pressure and calls from Boycott Watch to stop selling all products containing the crushed insects, Starbucks has issued a statement that it will phase out the usage of the insects completely, and replace the ingredient with lycopene, the same ingredient that makes ketchup a more vibrant red.

   In their statement, Starbucks wrote:

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.

    "Starbucks did the right thing" said Fred Taub, President of Boycott Watch. "Consumers lost confidence in Starbucks when they found out what they were paying for, and the backlash proves the power of consumer outrage and boycotts. Starbucks took appropriate steps but will have an uphill battle to regain consumer confidence because bad news sticks in the mind of consumers. Other companies which use the ground-up insects to color their products red should take note of the consumer outrage at Starbucks and remove ground-up insects from their foods to avoid facing consumer backlash too."

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