sip on this

Starbucks Not the Only Brand Using Crushed Bugs for 'Natural' Coloring

Posted by Abe Sauer on March 27, 2012 05:14 PM

"One Venti half-caf skim yuckaccino..." Consumers are bugging out about Starbucks' admission that the secret ingredient to the chain's strawberry frappuccinos is insects. Yes, Starbucks has revealed that cochineal extract, essentially pulped insects, is the secret ingredient bringing the red hue to its strawberry frapp.

Hey, it could be worse. It could be aborted stem cells.

Starbucks' reasoning for using (naturally accruing) insect gruel dye is that it is healthier than artificial coloring. Starbucks' statement said, in part, that the change "helps us move away from artificial dyes." Sounds like a great substitute, right?

"Egghh... i just threw up a lil! .... shouldnt it be stated on the lable in big print that there are bugs in the food and drink so people know what there consuming!!!?!?" wrote one disgusted commenter on the Daily Mail story. His reaction was not atypical.

Use artificial coloring and run afoul of one group, use bugs and gross out another. You just can't win.

But is this Starbugs-fretting just a tempest in a Trenta cup? As many have rushed to point out, cochineal extract has been used as reddish food coloring in consumer products for years, including those that go in the mouth — and on it. Red lipsticks, for example, are a common cochineal product.

Starbucks is not the only brand to avoid artificial coloring of late. Coca-Cola just tweaked its iconic soda formula to avoid having to make a "cancer" disclosure related to one of the artificial dyes it used.

Where Starbucks may be in trouble is with Jewish and vegetarian groups. Cochineal is not considered vegetarian or kosher. Indeed, the admission was triggered by questions about the whether or not the drink was vegan. In response, upset vegetarians have launched an online petition to convince Starbucks to instead use "Red beet, black carrot, purple sweet potato and paprika" which are "all-natural alternatives to artificial dyes and safe for those with dietary restrictions. (And those who don’t want crushed bugs in their designer drink.)"

But it could be worse. Pepsi recently found itself having to deny charges from pro-life grips that its artificial flavor tests were using "fetal cells from babies victimized by abortions." And despite PepsiCo's adamant denials of any such thing, groups like Children of God for Life continue to insist Pepsi is guilty. The group has issued a list of other suspected artificial flavoring fetal cell offenders, including Gatorade and Tropicana.


Staeven Frey United States says:

This isn't anything new to the beverage industry–Ocean Spray uses it in their Ruby Red Grapefruit juice.

March 27, 2012 11:53 PM #

Syed Abdul Karim Tanveer Saudi Arabia says:

Unbelievable! There are clearly 'natural' alternatives to using bugs! If iconic brands like Starbucks and Pepsi are going to do this 'supposedly' with good intent then what can one expect from the not so public, high profile brands who maybe doing worse for more sinister reasons like cutting costs etc.

March 28, 2012 02:39 PM #

M Youssef Belhaj United States says:

As shown in the video above, there is no harm using cochineal extract that is basically one of many extract or hormones used in our daily food. Let's think about it this way many of pharmaceutical or fertilizers companies use microbial interaction to make their drugs or fertilizers, and many people know about it. The reaction of vegans of internet was maybe the only reason why everybody was worried, but for other customers is it really an issue? No, because cochineal was used for ages in not only food products, but also in cosmetics1.
In my point of view, the problem is basically in our minds. As consumers and human being, we have always associated bugs with dirt, trash cans, and enemies (mosquitoes). Therefore, everything extracted from them will also be perceived as dirty, trashy, and not healthy. This image that we have in our minds has made it inacceptable to have some bugs in our drinks or food.
For vegetarians, I admit that it was Starbucks responsibility to inform them about the content of the strawberry flavored products, but as a different kind of consumers, their HOMEWORK is to check the content of every product before consumption. I would even suggest them to do some research about every component of products.
All in all, food companies sell to vegetarians and non-vegetarians. As long as there is no harmful component that can  lead to health issues, companies should not be held responsible for using a certain component, flavor, or color stimulators.  
1 Sensient (2012). Carmine. Retrieved from http://sensient

March 29, 2012 02:00 PM #

JR Hochmuth United States says:

News flash...Many manufacturers have been using bugs for years!  Read your food labels!  I have significant food allergies and intolerance's and have been reading food labels for years.  DO NOT RELY ON SOMEONE ELSE TO POLICE WHAT YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH!  When in doubt, ask.  When in doubt don't consume it!  Remember arsenic is natural and organic!

March 31, 2012 06:34 PM #

AG Switzerland says:

Yes and on average, you eat 1.03 cockroaches every time you eat 13 low-quality cocoa-based snacks (Mars, M&M, Snicker, etc.)

April 2, 2012 03:17 AM #

Comments are closed

elsewhere on brandchannel

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
brandcameo2014 Product Placement Awards
Apple loses its crown to a new #1
Coca-ColaIt's the Journey That Matters:
Coca-Cola Opens Up With Story-Based Web Refresh
debateJoin the Debate
Is product placement a waste of money?
Arthur Chinski and Joshua Mizrahi
Model Behavior? Brands Beware
U.S. Legal Changes Impact Use of Brand Ambassadors
paperCorporate Citizenship in Canada
Fresh thinking from Interbrand
Sheryl Connelly
Sheryl Connelly

Meet Ford's Resident Futurist
Highlighting the Present—and Future—of Branding in Latin America and Iberia