I tried some of the new plant-based products on sale at Starbucks UK.
This includes its first plant-based fish alternative: A vegan tuna sandwich made from pea protein.
The color of the fake tuna didn’t look right, but the texture was just like fish.
Starbucks UK has recently released a selection of new plant-based products, so I decided to try some out. I was most excited to try the coffee chain’s plant-based tuna sandwich.
The Tu’NAH Sandwich, as Starbucks calls it, is the company’s first plant-based fish alternative. It was rolled out in January and contains plant-based tuna, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise, and salad.
Sources: Starbucks, Insider
The packaging says that the product is plant-based, though Starbucks’ website labels it as vegan. The plant-based tuna is made from pea protein, the mayonnaise from faba bean, and the horseradish sauce from coconut milk.
The sandwich looked pretty good and smelt quite fishy. The color of the tuna was a bit off, though – it looked more like salmon.
According to the ingredients list on the back of the pack, the tuna alternative only made up 12% of the total product, but it looked like a generous portion to me. There seemed to be an awful lot of mayonnaise, though.
In the UK, horseradish is traditionally served alongside roast beef so I found it unusual to pair the tuna sandwich with it. But I think Starbucks chose wisely – by pairing the plant-based tuna with other fillings that had strong flavors like horseradish and onion, it detracted slightly from the taste of the tuna.
That’s not to say the pea-protein tuna tasted bad. I could tell it wasn’t real fish, but the other fillings helped mask this and the texture was remarkably close to tuna.
It surprised me that Starbucks opted to develop a plant-based alternative to tuna, though. Other fast-food chains have honed in on plant-based burgers, chicken sandwiches, and milkshakes, but I’d never seen a plant-based tuna sandwich before.
Tuna is quite a polarizing choice of sandwich, and I couldn’t imagine there’d be huge demand for a plant-based version – but it’s yet another sign that chains are finally taking plant-based food seriously by being innovative and giving consumers more choice.
Technological innovations mean new plant-based products are becoming available. The growing number of vegans and flexitarians is creating a bulging market for plant-based replicas of meat, fish, and dairy products.
Starbucks dropped its surcharge for non-dairy milk in the UK in January. Prior to this, both cow’s milk and soy milk were available for free, but oat, almond, coconut, and Starbucks’ Nut Blend milks incurred an extra £0.40 ($0.54) charge. In the US, customers still have to pay extra for non-dairy milk.
As well as removing the surcharge, the chain also rolled out two Iced Shaken Espresso drinks in the UK, both of which are made with oat milk and were already available in the US.
I ordered a Starbucks Iced Brown Sugar Oat Shaken Espresso, which contained ice and brown sugar syrup.
Oat milk is my favorite non-dairy milk and you couldn’t tell the drink was made with a dairy-free substitute. Though the drink was sweet, it wasn’t quite as sugary as I’d expected, given its name.
I also ordered one of Starbucks’ plant-based mini carrot cakes. Mine got a bit squished in my bag, but it tasted delicious. The cake is packed with sultanas and walnuts, which I personally loved but I know that these additions would be enough to put some people off. The frosting was very yummy too – you couldn’t tell it was plant-based oat alternative.
Overall, I was impressed by Starbucks’ launches. I was glad to see that most of the plant-based products launched in January weren’t just a one-off for Veganuary. The chain appears to be focusing its plant-based efforts in the UK rather than the US with the axing of its non-dairy milk surcharge and introduction of its first vegan fish alternative.