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Caribou says it's cleaning up its drinks

"Clean Label" drinks mean Caribou is nearly done transitioning away from artificial ingredients.

Minnesota-based Caribou Coffee says its drink menu is almost all cleaned up.

The company is promoting its "Clean Label" drinks, saying in a statement Monday that artificial ingredients – whether they're flavoring, coloring, sweeteners, or preservatives – are disappearing and should be entirely extinct by the end of next year.

On its Clean Label web page Caribou lists all 70-plus ingredients the company says are now off-limits in its drinks.

They say some of those ingredients are still being used in its Chai Tea latte, its sugar-free chocolate syrup, and a few drink toppings but they hope to have those items cleaned up soon, too.

3 years in the making

Caribou says it started working toward its Clean Label drink menu three years ago.

Swapping ingredients without messing up the taste of a popular drink can be tricky, so lots of testing went into the changes. Why bother? Because the industry is becoming convinced that it makes a difference to customers.

Daily Coffee News notes a market research firm said a couple of years ago: “Consumers are demanding shorter and more recognizable ingredients lists and manufacturers are responding by increasingly highlighting the naturalness and origins of their products.”

A timeline on Caribou's webpage shows that some of its changes go back a ways, but the company has been ramping up its move to natural ingredients.

For example, the switch from chocolate powder to real chocolate chips came in 2010. But real vanilla, caramel, and pumpkin all arrived just last year.

An executive with Caribou, which has more than 5,000 Twin Cities employees, tells the Star Tribune the company emulated standards established by Whole Foods as it overhauled its drink ingredients.

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