The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegan Menu Items at Starbucks; Natural Flavors

Posted on February 06, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

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.” 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.
Tazo Tea
Filter Coffee
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
Fruit Salad
Fairtrade Banana
Roasted Almonds
Nut Mix
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.

1 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 17 02 13 09:50

    Gringo A Go-Go » Day Five of the Vegan Adventure

12 to “Vegan Menu Items at Starbucks; Natural Flavors”

  1. Steve says:

    Thank you so much for this research. Starbucks is a tough nut to crack. While we finally have a definitive list vegan-friendly products, I’ll probably take my consumer dollar elsewhere.

  2. Garnet and Jenny says:

    This is a great resource, thank you for taking the time to discover what is suitable for the vegan community. Very very helpful. :o)

  3. Holly says:

    So does that mean that all of the flavored syrups for the coffees ARE vegan? Ex. vanilla, toffee, coconut, etc.

  4. David says:

    Thank you very, very much! Great information! Thank you VRG and Starbucks! I would simply echo Holly’s question about all the syrups being vegan — but it does seem that if we take Starbucks’ list at face value, that ALL the syrups ARE vegan. Fantastic!

  5. gabby says:

    Ive spoken with 5 starbucks now. Even if you ask for sot milk there is still a creme base for all of their frappacinos unless you ask for it to be coffee based. I was very upset to hear this.Reply

  6. Andy says:

    Starbucks Creme base is vegan along with the reguar coffee base. Light coffee base contains dairy.

  7. Andy says:

    Also, Tazo Chai tea concentrate is made with honey. For strict vegans ask the barista to make any chai beverages using the hot tea bags.

  8. Miranda says:

    All frapps are made with the coffee base- unless you order a creme base beverage I.E. Strawberrys and CREME frapp, vanilla bean CREME frapp, and green tea CREME frapp. And I do beleive all of our bases for frapps are vegan except for the light base. I am an asst. Manager for starbucks and have been vegan for 5 years working here for 2 and have never had any issue finding something delicious and morally okay from starbucks. You do have to ALWAYS say you want soy or we default to 2% for regular drinks and whole milk for frapps. Hope this helps some!

  9. Tiz says:

    I was told by a barista yesterday that the mocha syrup contains lactose fats so that it binds. I wish we had a definitive word on this.

  10. Madeleine Fessier says:

    I don’t know if this info is specific enough, someone really needs to get more information on which lattes are vegan. Since the PSL is definitely not vegan, and the chai has honey. It should be requested which lattes are non vegan and if the chai only has honey in it and not other non-vegan ingredients. (since some vegans eat honey)

  11. Nisha says:

    I’ve read several controversial things about starbucks products being vegan or not. If your a strict vegan would the mocha frappe with soy milk be considered vegan? Some people say it is and then I read “mocha syrup contains lactose fats” stated by Tiz but I’ve read several other posts saying the mocha frappe with soy milk is not suitable for vegans. Can someone please either confirm this or tell me why its okay to consume as a vegan?

  12. Laura Word says:

    I was told by an employee the other day that the mocha does contain milk products it says it on the box it comes in.

Leave a Reply

  • Donate

  • Subscribe to the blog by RSS


    Sign up for our newsletter to receive recipes, ingredient information, reviews of new products, announcements of new books, free samples of products, and other VRG materials.

    Your E-mail address:
    Your Name (optional):

↑ Top