For some time now, Starbucks has offered a variety of dairy-free milk options, including oat, soya, and its signature Original Nut Blend. But its inclusive menu has come at a price, and historically, customers have had to pay £0.40 more for plant-based milk. But not anymore: in the UK, after vocal opposition, the chain has scrapped the charge in all 1,020 stores.
The news comes shortly after a hoax press release—sent out by dairy-free advocate group Switch4Good—claimed that Starbucks had dropped the charges. The group did so in a bid to pressure the chain, and raise awareness of “dietary racism.” (Some research suggests that BIPOC communities may be particularly impacted by lactose intolerance.)
Starbucks’ genuine announcement applies only to the UK at this point. U.S. customers will still have to pay the extra charge, which on average comes in at $0.70.
Starbucks UK has also announced several dairy-free menu options, including three new oat lattes. Two are vegan: the Strawberry & Vanilla Oat Latte and the Dark Cocoa & Orange Oat Latte. The final hazelnut-based option includes honey.
Customers can also try the chain’s new Tu’NAH Sandwich, made with The Vegetarian Butcher’s vegan tuna, a plant-based Pecan & Caramel Brownie, Carrot Cake, and a Chocolate & Caramel Muffin.
The impact of Starbucks’ dropped surcharge
Starbucks’ choice to drop its dairy-free surcharge and introduce more oat-based beverages is not only beneficial to consumers, but also the planet.
Animal agriculture contributes to 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Dairy is also resource-intensive. According to the BBC climate calculator, which is based on Oxford University research, drinking a glass of dairy milk a day uses 45,733 liters of water per year, and two tennis courts of land.
Alternatives like oat, however, are more environmentally-friendly. According to the same calculator, drinking a glass of oat milk a day requires 3,512 liters of water per year.
Starbucks has acknowledged dairy’s impact on the environment before. Last year, CEO Kevin Johnson talked about the chain’s sustainability commitment, and told Bloomberg: “Alternative milks will be a big part of the solution. The consumer-demand curve is already shifting.”