WASHINGTON — Starbucks is pushing back against suggestions stoked by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump that this year's minimalist design for its holiday cups is a slap at Christmas.
Responding to questions about the cups, the Seattle-based coffee purveyor on Tuesday touted its ''exclusive Christmas Blend Vintage 2015'' — one of several Christmas-themed products available in its stores.
On its website, Starbucks pointedly said it was introducing the blend on behalf of its 300,000 employees ''from diverse ethnic backgrounds who proudly wear our green apron.''
Some religious conservatives have expressed anger over the coffee company's holiday season cups, which this year are a minimalist all-red design with no images aside from the company's green and white logo.
Previous years' cups have featured snowflakes and winter scenes as well as occasional Christmas ornaments. A small number of critics have objected to the design choice, seeing it as part of a larger movement away from exclusively Christian-themed holiday decorations.
Trump piled on Monday when he suggested boycotting the company at a rally in Springfield, Illinois.
''Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks,'' Trump told a capacity crowd of thousands gathered to hear him speak at a rally ahead of Tuesday night's GOP debate.
''Maybe we should boycott Starbucks. I don't know,'' he said. ''Seriously, I don't care.''
Trump, who has been trying to court evangelical and other conservative Christian voters, has often bemoaned the use of the phrase ''Happy Holidays'' in place of ''Merry Christmas'' to cater to non-Christians who don't celebrate the holiday.
He said on Monday that: ''If I become president, we're all going to be saying, 'Merry Christmas' again. That I can tell you.''
In response to questions about Trump's criticism, Starbucks spokeswoman Sanja Gould noted that the company's Christmas blend was available in 23,000 stores in 70 countries starting Tuesday.
She also directed reporters to several pages on the company's website listing various Christmas-branded coffee blends, as well as ''Ugly Sweater'' and frosted snowman cookies.