Unraveling the Mystery of ‘Natural Flavours’ in Lavender Syrup and Powder from brands like Starbucks.


Unraveling the Mystery of ‘Natural Flavours’ in Lavender Syrup and Powder from brands like Starbucks.

If you’re a beverage fanatic, you already know that Starbucks recently launched a new line of drinks for spring. Lavender Syrup and Powder are all the rage in coffee shops and bars lately. What makes these drinks special is their lavender flavouring. We immediately had questions when we learned about Starbucks’ newest spring menu items. We were particularly intrigued to look deeper into the ingredients of their lavender-flavoured products.

Our farm has been working on a line of lavender syrup for release at the end of April 2024. Throughout the process, we wanted to ensure our natural ingredients were truly natural. This was partly to help us stand out in a market that prioritizes additives and preservatives. But mostly so our customers felt confident that the products they were buying from us were made farm-to-table. When we began researching Starbucks’ newest drinks, the ingredients list didn’t surprise us. That’s why we promptly wrote about it shortly after its release last month.

What are Natural Flavours?

What happened next, was a flood of emails. Our waitlist turned into a Q&A from consumers who had tried a drink or two and experienced negative reactions.  One person wrote to describe a particularly scary anaphylactic reaction. After visiting a physician, they confirmed that it was not likely due to the lavender plant. More likely it was caused by some other additive to the recipe and hidden through the natural flavours label.

When researching lavender powder at Starbucks, the facade of “natural flavours” approved by the Canadian government makes it difficult to find a definitive list of ingredients. We’ve outlined the fundamentals of natural flavour as defined by the Canadian government to help provide clarity.

Follow along below to learn more!

How Corporations like Starbucks Hide Behind the Natural Flavour Label in its Lavender Syrup and Powder

lavender spring syrup process

Lavender syrup made from the farm using culinary grade English Lavender buds.

A Google search for STARBUCKS Lavender Powder ingredients would likely yield a brief list obscured by terms like “natural flavour”. The ingredients listed on the package include sugar, salt, natural lavender flavour, colour from fruit and vegetable juice concentrate, and soybean oil.

What’s interesting about this list beyond the unnecessary additives like salt and soybean oil, is the term “natural lavender flavour”. This title provides no information about what variety of lavender is being used. Nor, what parts of the plant are being used, and what other hidden ingredients are used to concoct this so-called natural flavour. 

The use of the words natural flavour on food labels is not something unique to Starbucks.

In fact, if you take a stroll through your local supermarket, you’ll probably find this term on many products. Especially, those fronting a healthy image. In most cases, when the term natural flavours is listed, it means that the chemical compounds that give an ingredient its flavour are extracted in a lab, enhanced, and re-integrated into the final product.

The word natural is merely a misnomer or marketing tactic to trick the consumer into thinking that what they are purchasing is going to be beneficial/neutral to their health. So what does this mean for your lavender syrup and powder?

If you didn’t know this before reading the above, don’t fret. The food industry has many ways of misleading us into thinking one thing about our food when the opposite is true.

According to an article by Carmen Chu on the UBC blog, “[a]side from the flavouring, natural flavours contain emulsifiers, solvents, and preservatives that do not need to be disclosed on the product label.” What’s more, is that there can be up to 100 added ingredients nested under the term “natural flavours”. All of this begs the question: what is Starbucks hiding in its natural lavender flavour?

Lavender Syrup and Powder Ingredients and Processing at a Corporate Level 

lavender syrup natural colour

Lavender spring syrup before labeling – note that it’s not purple!

To answer the question above, we don’t know exactly what Starbucks uses in its lavender powder. For companies like Starbucks, the ingredients in a product that compose something like “natural flavours” are often hidden from the public because it is considered proprietary information.

The truth of the matter is that the formulation for their lavender flavouring is likely complex and the resulting “recipe” is therefore intellectual property of the company. Thus, providing some reason as to why they choose to hide behind the label of natural flavours. 

However, with this in mind, it does not discount the fact that there could remain alarming ingredients present in the formulation. Going back to the UBC article about natural flavours, Chu discusses the many techniques that are used in the food industry to extract natural flavours from a natural source.

The flavour originated from a natural source

One of these methods is called enzymatic extraction, where different enzymes like lipases, esterases, nucleases, or glycosidases break down the flavouring component from larger molecules. Another technique is called solvent extraction, where acetone, alcohol, or propylene glycol are used to extract the flavouring chemical. 

So, even if solvent extraction is done to gather the natural flavouring, the flavour integrated into your food can still be labeled natural—despite a synthetic solvent being used to derive the final result. This is all because the flavour originated from a natural source. 

If we’ve scared you away from Starbucks’ not-so-natural lavender beverages, we encourage you to get on our waitlist for our farm-made lavender syrup. With our new lavender syrup products, you can enjoy the same floral beverages without wondering what’s inside. Our ingredients list is comprised of four items, legible by your third grader:

  • Culinary grade, English lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Organic Citric Acid

Contact McKinley Lavender Farm Today to Learn more about Lavender Syrup and Powder!

Stay tuned to our website and socials for more information about our lavender syrup that’s about to hit the market! You can do so by following us on social media, checking our website, and hopping on our waitlist so that you get notified as soon as it’s ready for purchase! As always, if you have any questions about our lavender farm Kelowna, feel free to contact us. Or, if you have any inquiries about Lavender Jack’s, don’t hesitate to reach out.