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Is Starbucks Going to Eliminate Its Non-Dairy Surcharge?

Last updated: June 28, 2022

As plant-based alternatives become the norm and consumer demand for these items increases, many people wonder why Starbucks still has a non-dairy surcharge. The additional cost can be anywhere from 50 to 80 cents in the U.S. depending on what part of the country you live in. Many people view this as unfair, because it discriminates against people who have dairy allergies and encourages people to stick with milk instead.

Over recent years, there’s been mounting pressure for Starbucks to eliminate its non-dairy surcharge and some changes have been made.

Why Does Starbucks Charge Extra for Non-Dairy Milk?

While Starbucks hasn’t exactly come out and explained why they add a surcharge for plant-based milk added to your favorite drinks, one can only assume it’s a financial decision. The general consensus is that plant-based milk production costs more than cow’s milk, as the straining, bottling, and packaging requires more steps.

The retail price of plant-based milk is also typically twice as much as cow’s milk, so the argument is that Starbucks must pass that cost on to the consumer.

Additionally, dairy production in the U.S. is heavily subsidized by the government, which means products are much cheaper. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers federal reimbursements to schools that serve cow’s milk to 50 million students across the country, even though dairy is one of the most common food allergies for kids.

The Growing Pressure to Remove the Non-Dairy Surcharge

Starbucks is known for valuing smart, eco-friendly policies, therefore, it’s still a question in consumers’ minds why they continue to charge extra for non-dairy milks. For example, Starbucks gives customers back 10 cents when they bring their own reusable cup. There is growing pressure coming from environmental activities and people who are lactose intolerant, who claim the surcharge is unfair and even discriminatory towards minorities.

Back in December of 2021, a fake press release came out saying that Starbucks was dropping its non-dairy surcharge. The news made major headlines. However, it turns out it was a prank by activist group Switch4Good, a non-profit that advocates a dairy-free lifestyle for ethical and health reasons. Switch4Good’s founder claimed that the prank was an effort to raise awareness and presented an opportunity to Starbucks’ leaders.

In January of 2022, Starbucks dropped its non-dairy surcharge for 1,020 stores in the UK, as well as some stores in France, Chile, and the Netherlands. Whether or not that was a reaction to the fake press release is unclear, but it showed progress towards eliminating the surcharge in other parts of the world. As of now, Starbucks still charges for non-dairy alternatives in the U.S. and has not officially announced a date when this would be eliminated.

Vegan Starbucks Options to Try

Although you might have to pay a little extra, fortunately you can make almost any Starbucks drink vegan by using one of their plant-based milks. Starbucks currently offers oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk, which can be added to hot coffees, cold brews, iced lattes, frappuccinos, mochachinos, tea, hot chocolate, and more. Some locations also offer the Starbucks Original Nut Blend, a plant-based alternative made from rice, hazelnuts, and cashews. It’s quite easy to get a delicious, vegan drink at Starbucks these days. In fact, soy milk at Starbucks has been available since 2004.

There are also plenty of vegan food items and snacks at Starbucks:

  • Chickpea Bites & Avocado Protein Box
  • Bagels: plain, cinnamon and raisin, everything
  • Rolled & steel cut oatmeal
  • Strawberry Overnight Grains with coconut milk
  • Plant-Based Breakfast Sandwich with Impossible Sausage Patty
  • Snacks including fruit and nut bars, Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs, Justin’s Almond Butter, kettle potato chips, Pop! Chips, mixed nuts, and bananas

FAQs

Are almond milk lattes healthy?

Almond milk lattes contain less fat and calories than regular lattes made with dairy. They are typically made with coffee or brewed espresso, almond milk, sugar or sweetener, and vanilla extract. In general, almond milk is low in nutrients because it contains a lot of water, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for you. Stay away from sweetened almond milk and choose almond milk that is carrageenan-free.

Do non-dairy milks have calcium?

Many non-dairy milks are fortified with nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, and calcium. They can be an excellent source of calcium and comparable to their dairy counterparts.

What soy milk does Starbucks use?

Starbucks has their own brand of soy milk that you can’t find in grocery stores. According to reviews, this option is actually the highest in calories of all the plant-based options at Starbucks and includes sweetener and flavoring.


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