Starbucks cancels surcharge for vegan milk alternatives


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    People need dairy-free and vegan milk alternatives in their beverages for a variety of reasons. Whether allergy, intolerance or just a personal decision, everyone has their reasons.

    Did you know, however, that many smaller cafes and larger coffee chains charge additional fees for milk alternatives? Cow milk alternatives, including oat, almond, coconut and rice milk, are known as «vegan taxes» and often cost between 20 and 60 cents extra when ordering your morning coffee.

    But Starbucks changes all of that.

    Starbucks is abolishing its vegan tax


    However, as of today, Starbucks will no longer charge additional milk alternatives in its 1,020 UK stores. Starbucks UK currently offers five dairy alternatives – oats, soy, almond, coconut and its exclusive Starbucks Original ™ nut mix. To date, soy milk has been the only option at no extra charge.

    This new change arrived just in time for Veganuary. However, this is not the first time Starbucks has put customer satisfaction at the heart of its practices. The Vegan Whipped Topping for allergy sufferers and intolerances was introduced in 2021. This vegan alternative to whipped cream turned out to be a hit.

    Starbucks UK has also announced several delicious and dairy-free menu options, including three new oat lattes. These are strawberry and vanilla and dark cocoa and orange, which are vegan. The third, a hazelnut option that contains honey.

    Before that, the coffee giant Costa abolished the milk alternative surcharge, but only for the Christmas season. In 2020, the high street chain Pret A Manger abolished the 40 pence surcharge on their rice and coconut milk and introduced free oat milk as an alternative. However, the average price of the chain’s coffees went up 5 to 20 pence to cover the cost of this vegan milk.

    The Free4DairyFree campaign

    The Free4DairyFree (F4DF) campaign is pushing for the elimination of additional fees charged on non-dairy milk alternatives in coffee shops, cafes and supermarkets across the UK.

    As mentioned before, for plant-based milk such as oat, soy, coconut and almond milk, fees of between 20 and 60 pence can be added to the price of a drink. Not only does this encourage fewer people to opt for herbal alternatives, but the costs can add up quickly.

    F4DF is committed to ending the surcharges once and for all. Not only are milk alternatives more sustainable, it is argued that many people have no choice when it comes to intolerance and allergies.

    You can read more about the campaign here.

    Charge more for cow’s milk

    In March 2021, Worcestershire-based Abbey Road Coffee, a vegan café, came under fire for charging customers an extra 10p for choosing milk in their drink.

    This was a reversal of the policy of most coffee shops of charging additional fees for milk alternatives. Though dairy and plant-based options are more expensive to buy, owner Tom Floyd defended his actions. He suggested that it was designed to get customers thinking about both the planet and their food choices.

    Customers in the area supported and protested the charges. Some saw it as a way to encourage people to try plant-based and more sustainable dairy options, while others thought it should remain an individual choice.

    What do you think of the “vegan tax”? Let us know in the comments below!

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