Starbucks Finally Drops Vegan Milk Upcharge At All Of Its 1,020 UK Stores

Earlier this month, a spoof campaign hit out at Starbucks for its dairy-free milk upcharge


3 Minutes Read

The world's largest coffee chain is ending its vegan upcharge in the UK. - Media Credit: Andrew Walters / Alamy Stock

For the first time, Starbucks UK has pledged to stop charging extra for dairy-free milk. It comes just weeks after an attention-grabbing campaign highlighted various issues linked with the vegan upcharge.

Further, the world’s largest coffee chain is ringing in the new year with several new plant-based food options, including its first vegan tuna alternative.

End of the vegan surcharge

In a press release published today, Starbucks announced that from January 5, 2022, it will no longer charge extra for any of its dairy alternatives. This applies to all of the coffee chain’s 1,020 stores in the UK.

The company currently offers five plant milks: oat, soya, almond, coconut, and its exclusive Starbucks Original Nut Blend.

The announcement closely follows a spoof campaign that made headlines on December 9. An entity posing as Starbucks distributed a fake press release to news outlets, saying the coffee chain would stop charging extra for vegan milk.

In it, the organization claimed Starbucks was ditching the upcharge due to the prevalence of lactose intolerance among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

The real Starbucks was quick to shoot down the activism, making it clear that the chain was not associated with the campaign.

It was later revealed that non-profit Switch4Good, which champions dairy-free living, was behind the initiative.

Switch4Good highlighted that 95 percent of Asians, up to 80 percent of Black and Latinx people, and more than 80 percent of Indigenous Americans cannot digest dairy. In contrast, just 15 percent of white people have lactose intolerance.

Dr. Milton Mills, an urgent care physician in Washington DC, lent his voice to the campaign. He named the Starbucks upcharge “unfair and racially targeted,” as well as an example of systemic racism.

New vegan launches

Starbucks did not address the hoax in today’s (real) announcement, or the accusations surrounding dietary racism. Instead, the chain’s motivations for dropping the surcharge appear to be environmentally driven.

“Forming part of our wider ambition to become a resource positive company, Starbucks works to migrate to a more environmentally friendly menu includes last month’s announcement of a sustainable dairy sourcing programme with Arla Foods to reduce the emissions from dairy,” the company wrote.

Similarly, Starbucks noted its “ongoing work to expand our plant-based menu.”

As part of this plant push, Starbucks is introducing three more oat milk beverages in the new year: Strawberry & Vanilla, Dark Cocoa & Orange, and Honey & Hazelnut. The former two options are vegan-friendly.

The new Tu’NAH Sandwich features The Vegetarian Butcher’s vegan fish. Credit: PBN / Starbucks

Additionally, the leading coffee chain is bringing out its first plant-based fish alternative.

The exclusive Tu’NAH Sandwich features vegan fish made by The Vegetarian Butcher. It comes complete with red onion, cucumber, rocket, lemon juice, egg-free mayonnaise, and “zingy notes” of horseradish.

Three new (plant-based) sweet treats are joining the menu too. This includes carrot cake with creamy oat frosting, as well as chocolate and caramel muffins, boasting a soft caramel center.

A new plant-based pecan and caramel brownie – featuring chocolate chunks, gooey caramel, and caramelized pecans – is also on its way.

The new menu additions are available from January 5, 2022, for a limited time. Dairy-free milk will no longer cost extra from January 5, 2022, at any Starbucks store in the UK.

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