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Starbucks removes surcharge for vegan milk alternatives

Isobel Lawrance 5th Jan 2022 No Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

People require dairy-free and vegan milk alternatives in their drinks for a range of reasons. Whether it’s due to an allergy, intolerance or simply personal choice, everyone has their reasons.

However, did you know that a large number of both smaller cafes and larger coffee chains charge extra for dairy alternatives? Known as the ‘Vegan Tax’, cow’s milk alternatives including oat, almond, coconut and rice milks often come with an extra cost of between 20p and 60p when ordering your morning coffee.

But Starbucks are changing all that.


Starbucks removes their vegan tax


As of today, however, Starbucks will no longer charge extra for milk alternatives in its 1,020 UK stores. Starbucks UK currently serves five dairy alternative options – oat, soya, almond, coconut, and its exclusive Starbucks Original™ Nut Blend. Until today, soya milk was the only option which did not carry an extra charge.

This new change has arrived just in time for Veganuary. However, this isn’t the first time Starbucks has put customer satisfaction at the core of their practices. In 2021, the Vegan Whipped Topping was introduced, for those with allergies and intolerances. This vegan alternative to whipped cream proved 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 which includes honey.

Previously, coffee giant Costa removed the dairy-alternative surcharge, but only for the Christmas period. In 2020, high street chain Pret A Manger removed the 40p surcharge on their rice and coconut milks, and introduced free oat milk as an alternative. However, the average price of the chain’s coffees rose by between 5p and 20p to cover the cost of these vegan milks.


The Free4DairyFree Campaign

The Free4DairyFree (F4DF) campaign pushes for the removal of extra charges added to non-dairy milk alternatives in coffee shops, cafes and supermarkets across the UK.

As previously mentioned, plant-based milks such as oat, soya, coconut and almond milks can see charges of between 20p and 60p added to the price of a drink. Not only does this encourage less people to choose plant-based alternatives, but the charges can quickly add up.

F4DF are campaigning to end surcharges once and for all. Not only are dairy alternatives more sustainable, but it is argued many people don’t have a choice when it comes to intolerances and allergies.

You can read more about the campaign here.


Charging more for cow’s milk

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

This was a reversal of the policy most coffee shops hold in which they charge extra for dairy alternatives. Despite dairy alternatives and plant-based options being more expensive to purchase, owner Tom Floyd defended his actions. He suggested it was designed to make customers think about both the planet and their dietary choices.

Customers in the local area both supported and protested this charge. Some saw it as a way to encourage people to try plant-based and more sustainable milk options, whereas others thought it should remain an individual choice.


What are your thoughts on the ‘Vegan tax’? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jasmine Birtles

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Jasmine Birtles

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