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  • Vegan Strong

Conscious Coffee: Why Upcharges Need to Go

If you are getting your daily dose of caffeine from your local Starbucks, you are probably aware of the additional fees associated with choosing plant-based milk. Ranging from fifty to seventy cents on average, the upcharge has many protesting the popular coffee chain in the vegan community.

Barrier to Progress

While the slightly higher price may not seem like a massive sacrifice to most, the issue is more about the unfair barriers to plant-based consumption than the money. As more consumers make more ethically responsible choices, the fact that corporations would continue to keep a pointless charge for plant-based milk seems archaic. Eliminating the charge could potentially lead customers to try new options and enjoy their favorite coffee drinks dairy-free. As this is a win for the environment and the animals, it likely comes down to the bottom line- financial gain.


The ability to order plant-based milk without extra charges extends beyond the vegan community. Lactose intolerance is common among people of color. The practice of charging extra makes Starbucks inaccessible to customers. Dairy allergies are serious and the most common allergy for children under 16. This realization has led popular coffee chains to discontinue the practice of charging extra for alternative milk. Starbucks may retain and gain customers by following suit.

Beginnings of Change

Fortunately, the plea of concerned consumers has been heard and addressed in some areas of the world. Starbucks UK has committed to dropping the extra charge, and other countries across the globe have expressed interest in doing the same. To unite in solidarity with its many customers seeking plant-based options without barriers would be a massive sign of goodwill.

Protests Big and Small

The urgency to end the premium prices has been recognized and boosted by celebrity voices and influential organizations. Peta has increased pressure on Starbucks by organizing active protests like the one in Manhattan headlined by actor James Cromwell. While not every protest will make popular news, concerned consumers can still support the cause in their own way. Writing to corporation CEOs, choosing chains that support vegan causes, and signing petitions demanding change can help like-minded voices be heard.

There is some good news on the horizon with the recent addition of CauliMilk to the Starbucks menu. At first glance, it seems to be a potential winner as far as being environmentally and allergy-friendly, and cruelty-free. The chain has committed to offering this alternative without the extra charges that most plant-based milk will incur. While this serves as a sign of progress, the sluggish response to years of protest is disheartening. Hopefully, a positive response will garner future decision-making that considers the conscious customers that desire their coffee without cruelty- or unnecessary charges.


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