By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Bugs: 1. Starbucks: 0.
That's the latest score, as Starbucks has made an unusually rapid reversal in how it colors its Strawberry Frappuccinos -- and some of its other foods and drinks.
Just weeks after the world's largest coffee chain took serious PR heat from vegan groups and public relations gurus for switching to commonly-used cochineal beetles to color its Strawberry Frappuccinos, the company's U.S. president, Cliff Burrows, now says that bugs are coming out and tomato-based extract is coming in.
"We fell short of your expectations," he said, in a statement on Thursday on the company's "My Starbucks Idea" consumer site. "We are reformulating the affected products to assure the highest quality possible."
By the end of June, he says, the company will transition to using lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract, in its Strawberry & Creme Frappuccino blended beverage and Strawberry Banana Smoothie. It also will drop the use of cochineal extract in its Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie.
Starbucks (SBUX) made the original switch away from artificial coloring in January, when it aggressively moved away from the use of any artificial ingredients in its food and drinks. Starbucks has worked diligently to improve the quality of its menu. But the backlash came just a few months later, when a vegan Starbucks barista alerted a vegan blogger of the change.
Now, the vegan world is ecstatic.
""Starbucks clearly learned from its error after switching to a dye from insects, says David Byer, senior corporate liaison at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Since no one, vegetarian or not, wants beetle juice in their Frap, everyone will soon be able to celebrate the fact that it's gone for good."
The vegan blogger who first complained about the coloring says she is happy, too. "Through this move, Starbucks has shown that it cares about the opinions of its consumers," says Daelyn Fortney, managing editor of ThisDishisVeg.com.
But she's holding off on celebrating with a Strawberry Frap until the change is final.
"Maybe after June," she says.