Starbucks Coconut Milk: A Problematic Perk?
June 2nd, 2015
When Starbucks announced that it was going to start offering its own blend of coconut milk — the Starbucks Single Origin Sumatra Coconut Milk — the java giant said it had heard the call of the caffeinated.
“Providing a non-dairy alternative to dairy and soy is the second most requested customer idea of all time from MyStarbucksIdea.com, generating more than 84,000 votes,” Starbucks said in a statement issued in February.
Well, since the milk has been available nationwide for a few months, several Starbucks customers have soured on the chain’s coconut option. To be clear: They still want coconut milk, they would just rather do without all the additives that the Starbucks version contains.
Wrote a reader in a recent email to TINA.org:
…the coconut milk advertised is actually a coconut milk ‘beverage’ with an excess of 20 ingredients, including sugar and other non-pure additives. I am certain I am not the only one who would be shocked to discover this when I asked to read the ingredients list. You can’t advertise that it’s Sumatran coconut milk and provide (an) inferior product. It’s unethical.
The reader’s email led us to a Starbucks around the corner from our Connecticut HQ where we asked to see an ingredients list for the coconut milk. We were handed a container. It took a while to jot them all down: water, coconut cream, cane sugar, tricalcium phosphate, coconut water concentrate, natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, gellan gum, corn dextrin, xanthan gum, guar gum, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).
What business does corn have in coconut milk? And three different types of “gum”? That’s a lot to chew over.
We’re not sure how the reader tallied 20-plus ingredients as we “only” counted 14 — maybe there are several additional ingredients in the “natural flavors” listed on the label she saw — but she is not alone in her disappointment over the additives.
In fact, several customers have expressed their displeasure on the very same MyStarbucksIdea.com blog that inspired Starbucks to add coconut milk to the menu in the first place (for an additional 60 cent charge, by the way).
One consumer, in response to a post by Starbucks Vice President Christine Barone (who is in charge of brewed espresso) called “Coconut Milk Is Here!” wrote: “REAL Coconut Milk consists of coconut milk and water … period.”
“I, too, am disappointed that the coconut milk is loaded with all the additives I’ve been trying to avoid,” wrote another.
Starbucks spokesperson Erin Shaeffer said in a phone interview that all the ingredients work toward matching the experience of drinking regular milk.
“We are trying to match the texture and mouthfeel of regular milk,” she told TINA.org.
Find more of our coverage on ingredients and fast beverages here.