Natural Purple Vegetable Juice Brings NEW Nostalgic QSR Shake to Life

QSRs Pull on Nostalgic Heartstrings

The past few years have been a roller coaster, full of ups, downs, and circles around a tumultuous backdrop of economic, political, and social uncertainty. To give back to consumers grasping for some inch of control, brands are comforting them through nostalgia and familiarity.

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) seem to be successfully embracing consumer sentiment for past musings and relics.

SONIC and McDonald’s are going head-to-head leveraging the sweet nostalgia of Strawberry Shortcake in their 2023 summer frozen dessert launches.

SONIC’s Vice President of Culinary & Menu Innovation, Mackenzie Gibson says “so many guests remember the feeling of enjoying a strawberry shortcake in the summertime, and our new Strawberry Shortcake Snowball Slush FloatTM is reminiscent of that, but with an innovative twist”.


Taco Bell is bringing back its infamous Volcano Menu established in 1995. Taco Bell noted in a recent press release “the menu, famous for its fiery flavors, has developed a cult-like following who have relentlessly championed its return”.

Tried and true staples provide a sense of safety and stability to consumers, helping to ground themselves in such ambiguous times.


Natural Purple Vegetable Juice Color Brings McDonald’s Grimace to Life

The naturally purple colored Grimace Mixed Berry Birthday Shake is drawing in consumers across generations. It has re-ignited consumer sentiment for McDonald’s mascot lineup. Surveys inquiring into fans’ favorite mascot of all time float around almost every major social media channel with Birdie and Hamburglar receiving high rankings like Grimace.

In the world of color, the Grimace Birthday Shake is an exciting launch because of its use of natural purple color from vegetable juice.

Grimace Shake Syrup Ingredients: Sugar, Water, Corn Syrup, Glycerin, Vegetable Juice (Color), Modified Food Starch, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives).

Before the days of advanced natural color technology, the go-to solution for purple shades was a blend of FD&C Red #40 and Blue #1. Unlike its natural counterpart, a synthetic blend achieves a rather grayish purple. To overcome those gray notes, a developer would typically increase the synthetic purple blend’s usage rate, so the color intensity masked the grayness.

The greatest technical challenge with natural purples was the limited sources of stable natural blues that would be needed to make purple.

However, just in the last two years, there has been a critical update for the natural color landscape, especially for natural purples, indigos, and greens. Butterfly pea flower extract has been approved as a color additive by the FDA. According to the FDA’s Code of Regulations, the new color additive can be labeled as “vegetable juice for color” or “butterfly pea flower extract for color”.

The purple hues from Butterfly Pea Flower Extract are far superior than synthetic purples.

Synthetic Purple
(Red 40 + Blue 1)


Natural Purple
(Butterfly Pea Flower Extract)

It’s not surprising that McDonald’s leaned into natural purple possibilities to delight consumers both visually and naturally through the Grimace Birthday Shake!

The fast food tycoon has invested significant funding to optimize the customer experience and to keep pace with evolving customer needs like convenient, affordable food made with simple ingredients like natural color and natural flavor.

Natural Vegetable Juice Color for Purple, Blue, and Green QSR Menu Innovation

Butterfly pea flower extract is an exciting addition to product developers’ natural color tool kit because of the following attributes:

  • FDA-Approved
  • Bright natural indigo, purple, and green shades
  • Superior stability
  • Clean Label “vegetable juice for color” or “butterfly pea flower extract for color”

Butterfly Pea Flower Extract Color for QSR Menu Innovation

Because of its shade versatility and excellent stability, Butterfly Pea Flower Extract color has broad appeal for menu innovation.

Unleashing the Power of Nature’s True Colors

Butterfly Pea Flower Extract

Natural Purples, Blues, & Greens

Fruit Drinks,
Smoothies, & Shakes




Coffee Drinks


Buns, Tortillas,
& Nacho Chips


Since Butterfly Pea Flower Extract has gained FDA approval, Sensient has expanded production 5X to meet interest and deliver cost-effective natural solutions to product developers and innovators.

As the most vertically integrated natural color supplier in the market, Sensient continues to increase capability and capacity for higher performing natural colors at lower cost-in-use targets so we can help brands delight consumers by bringing their Grimace to life.

One question remains…

Will other QSRs bring their mascots to life? What about a Royal Golden King Shake from Burger King? Or a Green Siren Smoothie from Starbucks? Or a bold Red Wendy’s Frosty?

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