Remember when everyone got really unhappy about Starbucks and their very-icky-non-vegan-but-not-actually-unhealthy crushed female cochineal beetles? We were all wondering what kind of food voodoo they would perform to replace it with something less gross-sounding and animal-free (but probably more unhealthy/artificial). Now, the answer has finally been revealed, and it’s kind of crazy…and possibly even nutritious? But don’t get too excited–it’s still a processed product of science.
There was an obvious answer to the Starbucks how-do-we-make-our-shakes-pink dilemma, which was the same one we all do to make our smoothies turn red: add more fruit. But fruit is expensive and hard and fallible and unpredictable, and anyway, most Starbucks customers probably don’t really care how much fruit is in their Strawberries and Creme Frappucino–they just want it to be pink.
But SBUX still managed to pull a pretty clever move, and, instead of replacing the bug juice with Red 4 or whatever other banned-in-most-countries artificial dye most places would have opted for, they’re now, according to Green Prophet, using something called Tomat-O-Red®, which is actually made of the cancer-fighting ingredient in tomatoes, lycopene. It comes in a variety of colors (food science! It’s so weird!) and is ultra-shelf stable, which means Starbucks can rest assured that from Brooklyn to Bankok, their drinks will look perfectly rosy.
The food dye, which claims to have antioxidants and other health benefits, is made by an Israeli-based company called Lycored. Which means it won’t exactly be pleasing those who wanted Starbucks to use something made in America (or the members of the Park Slope Food Co-Op)–but it does seem to be pleasing most of the green community. The tomatoes used for the dye aren’t organic, but they are non-GMO, and do seem to be a small step toward making what is otherwise a slurry of sugar, caffeine, and dairy products less terrible.
Of course, if you want something that’s actually healthy (and not just a healthy-ish-er version of something that’s kind of unhealthy), you can always just make a smoothie or a shake at home, with actual fruit.
Image: Nikola Bilic via Shutterstock