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Caribou Coffee Makes ‘Clean Label’ Commitment for 2016

Caribou Coffee headquarters in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Photo by Tony Webster.

Caribou Coffee headquarters in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Photo by Tony Webster.

Caribou Coffee is committing to a “clean label” beverage platform that will take effect throughout 2016, beginning with the launch today of a “real vanilla syrup.”

“Clean label offerings are increasingly important to our consumers and meet the taste standards we set for ourselves as a premier coffee brand,” Caribou Coffee Chief Marketing Officer Michele Vig said in a company announcement today, adding that the company will be working toward using all-natural ingredients in its menu items “whenever possible.”

Clean label ingredients of course are a possibility all the time when bottom-line interests aren’t primarily concerned, but the Caribou campaign nonetheless reflects a trend among some of the country’s largest food-and-drink purveyors to move away from offerings that include long lists of ingredients that smack of artificiality or are not clearly recognizable as human food.

“Consumers are demanding shorter and more recognizable ingredients lists and manufacturers are responding by increasingly highlighting the naturalness and origins of their products,” Dutch market research firm Innova said in a report in mid-2015 that suggested the “clean label” movement had moved beyond niche markets and into the mainstream of global food production.

Case in point, Starbucks made headlines this past fall when it announced it was introducing real pumpkin puree to its beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte in response to consumer demand. Although look closer and you can see that the pumpkin puree also contains annatto (a coloring) and potassium sorbate (a preservative), while the whipped cream that tops the PSL includes monoglycerides and diglycerides (emulsifiers used to extend the shelf-life of products that combine ingredients with fatty acids and water) and carageenan (a thickening agent).

Caribou Coffee says its “real vanilla” is composed only of pure cane sugar, water, natural vanilla flavor and vanilla bean extract. The company says it plans to convert all its syrups to meet clean label standards by the end of this year.


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