Starbucks just announced that it will finally remove the controversial upcharge for its plant-based milk following years of pressure. The company announced that it will begin removing the $0.70 surcharge across North America beginning in 2022, marking the first time the company has provided its four plant-based milk with no extra fee. However, the upcharge is not going away, but instead, Starbucks will add it to dairy milk purchases. Company executives revealed that the decision was motivated by the prevalence of lactose intolerance in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities (BIPOC).
“Starbucks is taking the initiative to apologize for having perpetuated deeply rooted systemic inequalities in our pricing of plant-based milk,” Equality Innovations Director at Starbucks Blaine Stevenson said. And, we commit to offering a more equitable experience for the global majority, which suffers from lactose intolerance.”
Stevenson highlighted how the company aims to minimize the discrimination that stemmed from the upcharge. Starbucks’ decision to add plant-based milk at no extra charge will ensure that the company is not disproportionately profiting from BIPOC communities while striving for the sustainability standards that the company promised.
“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,” Stevenson said.
The coffee giant currently offers oat, soy, almond, and coconut milk for coffee and specialty drinks. Last month, the company revealed that “dairy is the biggest contributor to Starbucks carbon footprint and the second-highest contributor to water withdrawal.” The company is working to promote plant-based consumption at locations throughout the United States. Starbucks believes that adding the surcharge to dairy-based milk will motivate customers to try sustainable alternatives.
“The long and the short of it is, as a company, we can’t in good conscience continue to profit off people of color,” Stevenson told Plant Based News. “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.”
Several organizations and activists have placed diet at the forefront of conversations discussing racism, institutional discrimination, and nutritional deficits. Recently, documentarians Keegan Kuhn and John Lewis premiered their new film, They’re Trying to Kill Us, which explored the deep connection between diet and racial discrimination. The film examines how racism manipulates the food industries across the United States to create nutritional faults in communities of color. With the help of Billie Eilish and Chris Paul, the documentary places pressure on food industries and companies to address discrimination nationwide.
“The film opened my eyes to the larger underlying issue and disparities in the food system, and most people don’t realize it has been happening for decades,” Paul said. “The conversations and dialogue are both thought-provoking and education in so many areas.”
Last month, Starbucks also started introducing Perfect Day’s dairy-identical fungi-based milk to select locations in Seattle. The decision coincides with the company’s pledge to promote sustainable company standards from production to distribution. The company is attempting to remove dairy and animal products from its menu, encouraging all customers to try plant-based alternatives as it begins to distance itself from its dairy roots.
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