Starbucks drops upcharge on plant-based milk
Reading Time: 2 minutes The company admitted it had 'perpetuated deeply rooted systemic inequalities', in a press release Credit: Starbucks
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Today, Starbucks announced it will stop charging extra for plant-based milk, and instead add an upcharge on dairy milk. This is according to a press release sent to PBN

The change will take effect in North America in 2022. 

The decision was reportedly based on the prevalence of lactose intolerance in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

BREAKING: Starbucks to Drop Upcharge on Plant-Based Milk in 2022

Starbucks upcharge

“Starbucks is taking the initiative to apologize for having perpetuated deeply rooted systemic inequalities in our pricing of plant-based milk.

“And, we commit to offering a more equitable experience for the global majority, which suffers from lactose intolerance,” said Blaine Stevenson, equality innovations director at Starbucks. 

“Placing the burden of non-dairy upcharges on our BIPOC customers has amounted to inadvertent dietary racism, and as a corporate leader it’s incumbent on us to make a switch for good,” said Stevenson.

In a phone interview, Stevenson told PBN that the company has been aware of lactose intolerance in BIPOC communities for some time. 

“The long and the short of it is, as a company, we can’t in good conscience continue to profit off people of color,” he said. 

“When we look at the numbers, it’s overwhelmingly clear that a majority of BIPOCs, and in fact a majority of the world, cannot digest dairy. 

“To penalize them for ordering a plant-based milk is a structural issue we have now finally corrected.”

Huge swathes of people around the world are lactose intolerant Credit: Starbucks

Moo-ving away from dairy

Starbucks offers oat, soy, almond, and coconut milks at an upcharge of up to 70 cents in the US – regardless of the size of the drink. But by switching the upcharge to drinks made with dairy from cows, the company believes it can incentivize people to try plant-based milk instead.

Last month, Starbucks acknowledged that dairy is the company’s biggest eco-sin. 

“Dairy is the biggest contributor to Starbucks carbon footprint and the second highest contributor to water withdrawal,” the company announced. 

Also last month, Starbucks began to trial “animal-free” milk made via precision fermentation from Perfect Day at two locations in Seattle. Perfect Day genetically engineers fungi strains and cow DNA to produce the milk proteins casein and whey. 

However, Perfect Day’s bioidentical version of milk is expected to be unsuitable for individuals who are lactose intolerant, or have dairy allergies. 

What is dietary racism?

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and Switch4Good, among other organizations, have long challenged dietary racism in the US. 

“The vast majority of people of color in this country are intolerant to the lactose that’s in milk,” said Dr. Milton Mills, a critical-care physician known for his advocacy of plant-based diets. 

“Yet because they think they have to eat this stuff, they go out, eat it, get sick. And, think they have some sort of intestinal problem. When I encourage them to stop eating dairy, their problems clear up,” he added.

Starbucks’ new milk pricing takes effect from January 1, 2022 in the US and Canada. It will roll out to international markets “in the future,” the company said.

Starbucks statement

But Starbucks Global Communications Megan Lagesse has revealed the announcement is false. In a statement sent to PBN, she said:

“This announcement is false and the website is not associated with Starbucks. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

This article was updated on Thursday, December 9 to add a statement from Starbucks

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