Vani Hari is no stranger to the fight for consumer rights. She’s tackled many big-name franchises in the past, with a tremendous amount of success. Perhaps most notably, she convinced Chick-fil-A to ditch corn syrup and challenged Subway for including azodicarbonamide in its bread. Now Hari is gearing up for a showdown with Starbucks over the company’s tremendously popular Pumpkin Spice Latte. With over 2 million Pumpkin Spice Lattes sold to date, the drink is the most popular seasonal beverage in the history of Starbucks.
In her latest post on her popular blog “The Food Babe,” Hari deplores Starbucks’ use of what she classifies as dangerous ingredients, including Caramel Color Level IV, artificial flavors, and ample preservatives. The post, entitled “You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Hint: You Won’t Be Happy),” details the company’s unwillingness to disclose specifics about the ingredients used in its drinks, including the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
When Hari first emailed the company asking about the ingredients, she received a response that was light on information. “The Pumpkin Spice Latte is of pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors combined with espresso and steamed milk, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice,” a Starbucks representative responded. When the blogger and activist pressed for more details, the company refused to provide them.
“While we understand that some customers would like to know the nutrition information for their specific customized beverage, unfortunately we are unable to provide this level of detail for every beverage customization request,” the company wrote. “The beverage information that is available on Starbucks.com reflects the beverage offerings currently on our menu with the most common customization options.”
Hari was less than pleased. “For a company that prides itself in its transparency, it’s unbelievable to me that this is how they respond to customers who ask for information about what’s in their drinks,” she wrote. Hari maintains that a failure to disclose pertinent information pertaining to ingredients is a problem across the board when it comes to Starbucks. Hari said it doesn’t publish any information about any of the ingredients in its drinks. This includes lattes, Frappuccinos, macchiatos, smoothies, and even kids’ drinks. “If you have a food allergy, their allergen information isn’t available online either,” she added.
Eventually Hari was able to get her hands on the ingredients in a Pumpkin Spice Latte. What she found was disturbing. Each Pumpkin Spice Latte contains two doses of Carmel Color Level IV (which contains ammonia and is considered a carcinogen), over 50 grams of sugar, a number of artificial flavors made from substances like petroleum, and a number of preservatives and sulfites. But the most disturbing part? The Pumpkin Spice Latte doesn’t have a trace of real pumpkin.
Hari urges consumers to let Starbucks know that they don’t want harmful additives in their drinks and to share the post. So, will Hari convince Starbucks to change its ways? Based on her impressive track record, she just might.
Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete.com. ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.