By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
The VRG received an email in January 2013 from a reader inquiring about Starbucks® Vanilla Spice Latte He wanted to know if the natural flavors in the new drink were all-vegetable.
We called the Seattle Starbucks® corporate headquarters and were told by a customer service representative that information on natural flavors was proprietary. He said that “I don’t know if they’re animal or not, and I have no access to information other than what is on the company’s website.” http://www.starbucks.com/ He consulted with his supervisor at our request who told him that no further information was available.
The VRG asked if it were possible to provide a list of Starbucks® menu items that were completely all-vegetable. We were told that no such list was available to him on the Starbucks® website nor on the internal website used by Starbucks® staff.
The rep suggested that we contact a local Starbucks® manager who would at least have the syrup bottles with ingredient lists displayed on the label.
So the VRG called a Baltimore-area Starbucks® in January 2013. We spoke to the manager who was very willing to look into the matter for us among the resources she had at her store. Unfortunately, after looking, she had no information regarding the natural flavors in Starbucks® products. She read off the label from the syrup used in the Vanilla Spice Latte: “sugar, water, natural flavor, citric acid, potassium sorbate.” She also read from the label that the syrup had been manufactured by another company for Starbucks® but had no further information on it.
The VRG emailed Starbucks® in January 2013 to see if we’d get any further information on vegan menu items. We asked specifically whether the natural flavors in the Vanilla Spice Latte were plant- or animal-derived. We also requested a list of vegan products. Within ten hours we received the following response from a customer service representative:
We use the term “natural flavors” in compliance with the labeling requirements of the Food and Drug Administration. (These can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations Book 21 CFR 101.22) If you have concerns about a product possibly containing ingredients that you do not wish to consume, we would recommend that you not consume that menu item and instead try a different option.
I can confirm that the following beverages and food items are currently suitable for vegans.
Café Misto with Soy
Steamed Soy with or without syrups
Espresso Macchiato with Soy
Café Americano black or with Soy
Soy Lattes with or without syrups
Soy Cappuccinos with or without syrups
Mocha with Soy
Classic Hot chocolate with Soy
Tea based Frappuccinos
Frappuccinos made with Soy milk without whipped cream (excluding our Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino due to the Chocolate Chips in the beverage recipe as they contain dairy. Our Caramel Drizzle topping is also not suitable for vegans as it contains dairy.)
Perfect Porridge with Soy Milk and dried fruit
Very Berry Compote
Fresh Fruit Salad
Fairtrade Chocolate bar – dark
Sea Salt Potato Chips
Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar Potato Chips
After Coffee Mints
Please ask the barista in store if you are unable to locate these items.
The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including the Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements. Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.