You would think that by adding a vegan option to your otherwise previously non vegan-friendly menu would make vegans and vegetarians happy but this unfortunately is not always the case.
For example, I recently found out that Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a popular U.S. restaurant franchise, announced that they would begin offering Beyond Meat’s soy-based ‘chicken’ substitute for purchase at their restaurants. At first I was really excited at the prospect of being able to once again eat at a restaurant that I’d enjoyed eating at before becoming vegan, but then I started to worry about the details. What about the rest of what would go along with the chicken substitute? Are the sandwich sauces vegan-friendly? Is the bread made with milk? Do they use butter on anything? Or honey?
With so many questions, and little to go off of after reading their menu and nutritional information posted on their website, I decided to go to the source and e-mail them personally to find out what is and isn’t appropriate for vegans.
The e-mail I received in return from them was less than satisfactory.
Thank you for your Kudos on the Beyond Meat! We appreciate that you took the time to contact Tropical Smoothie Cafe and that you are interested in becoming a foodie at TSC again. I am forwarding you the most recent nutritional information that TSC has released. You will notice that there are some identifiers for Vegetarian and Gluten Free options. I know you said you were vegan. Our nutritionist has informed me that our menu is so large that every ingredient would need to be analyzed for animal byproducts and that is a process that is a significant undertaking that they are not prepared to take on fully.
What I could suggest for you, is if you find items on the menu that you are interested in, you can ask to see the label that states the ingredients at our cafes. I know that’s not the answer you would like, and not the one I wanted to deliver, but I’m thinking that you are a vegan and much more educated in animal byproducts than our crew members would be at the cafe level. It would be the most helpful way for you to make the decision personally.
I hope that helps! I wish I had a better option for you. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Then they also attached a pdf to the e-mail, an exact copy of one they have posted on their website that I already saw, of the nutritional value – all the calories, carbohydrates, sugar, etc. but no information of what other foods their products actually consisted of.
I admit the woman who sent the e-mail to me seemed very sweet and desired to be helpful, but it is unacceptable that a company cannot tell their consumer what they are purchasing and inform them of what they are putting into their bodies.
It’s irresponsible and clearly not with the public interest in mind.
A similar instance to this one also happened in conjunction with the extremely well known, Starbucks Coffee Company. Although I do know some drinks I can get that are vegan there, I still have so many questions about the flavorings they use. For example all of the pumpkin flavored items at Starbucks are not vegan-friendly. Starbucks confirmed that, “if you look at a Pumpkin Spice sauce mix container at a Starbucks, or ask a barista, you’ll find the mix contains condensed milk.” Source If the pumpkin isn’t vegan than what about the vanilla…hazelnut…caramel?!
Another red flag I saw with flavorings used in Starbucks products was an issue they had with bugs being an ingredient in the food coloring dyes in their food and drinks. Source
Well, “It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again” because once again I go to the source and contact them, inquiring about what on their menu is suitable for vegans.
The response was even worse than the response I received from Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
Thank you for contacting Starbucks.
The ingredients used in Starbucks food and beverage products are screened for safety and compliance with laws, and we have undertaken many initiatives to limit unnecessary food additives and provide choice for our customers. This includes a number of low calorie options, organic foods and low salt items.
Starbucks continues to responsibly develop new products, adding more whole grains, vegetables and fruits, that undergo rigorous assessments for safety, premium quality and to meet customers’ expectations. Starbucks stands behind the safety, premium quality and nutritional value of our product offerings.
For more specific information on ingredients and availability of the food offered in our stores, please visit www.starbucks.com/menu/food.
If you ever have any questions or concerns in the future, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
They gave me not even the slightest indication of what is or isn’t vegan on their menu and the response sounds like all someone did was copy and paste a blurb into a box and hit send. No human touch, no sense that your concerns are really being heard or taken seriously.
I find it terribly sad that such lucrative places run their business with such little interest in educating their consumer, even when the customer comes to them asking for it.
It should not be such a difficult task to name your ingredients. The company should already be aware of them! They shouldn’t be some big secret. Customers have a right to know what is in their best interest, but how can you be aware of what’s best for you when you’re left grasping in the dark, and no one will turn on the light.