While some large companies like Subway, which launched a new line of vegan sandwiches in select stores this summer, are taking strides to accommodate the growing number of vegan consumers, it would seem that America's coffee giant has been taking subtle steps backward in vegan-friendliness this year.
This spring, in an effort to replace artificial ingredients with "natural" ones, Starbucks switched the chemical red food coloring in its strawberry frappuccinos with carmine, a dye derived from crushed up cochineal insects, to the angry bewilderment of vegans everywhere. And now the company is repealing its policy of offering free soy milk as a perk of its My Starbucks Rewards Program.
I've long thought Starbucks' upcharge for alternative milk (40 cents per serving) was overblown, and according to rough calculations from other outraged bloggers, I was right. It would seem that it costs the corporation only about 2.5 cents extra to sub soy milk in a coffee beverage, an amount so small, I would think a company that's interested in maintaining a progressive image would simply absorb it. Instead, they impose a 1600 percent markup that feels plain punitive.
Until now, frequent soy latte sippers had a way around the sky-high soy milk charge. Anyone who used a rewards card, which is really just a free reloadable gift card, enjoyed the benefit of free soy milk, as well as free syrup add-ins to their coffee beverages. With the new changes to the rewards program, both of these perks will disappear, and folks will be stuck paying for their health-, eco-, and ethically-conscious alterna-milk preferences. Of course lactose-intolerant folks will be none-too-pleased, either.
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Eduardo A Pazos is a Miami vegan who owns the Smoothie King at 1525 Alton Road on Miami Beach. He says that it costs him just one cent more every time he uses soy instead of regular milk in a 20-oz. beverage, and he never charges customers more for choosing soy milk.
"As a person that can count the number of times he's been to Starbucks on his fingers -- and not once since going vegan a year and a half ago -- it doesn't bother me personally," Pazos said of Starbucks' new no-free-soy rewards program policy. "As a vegan and environmentalist, though, it angers me that people are being charged more to make a more ethical and environmentally responsible choice."