‘Drop It!’ PETA to Cause a Stir at Starbucks Shareholder Meeting Over Nondairy Milk Upcharge

For Immediate Release:
March 12, 2024

Nicole Perreira 202-483-7382


Starbucks’ virtual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, a PETA representative and a longtime shareholder will each hammer executives with a request that the company avoid “potential costs” and “reputational damage” by moving to end its egregious, longstanding upcharge on the vegan milks that it has acknowledged are better for the planet. A PETA representative will also be speaking in support of the group’s proposed shareholder resolution calling for a report into whether Starbucks is actually losing sales—along with damaging its image and its self-branding as an environmentally conscientious company—with the upcharge.

protesters walking around starbucks
PETA supporters call on Starbucks to end its vegan milk upcharge. Credit: PETA

“Every nondairy milk fee at the register shows Starbucks for what it currently is: a greedy corporation putting profits over animals, the planet, and customers’ health,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is demanding that Starbucks put its money where its mouth is by ending this shameful upcharge, which would be no tall order.”

PETA’s campaign has netted the support of Sir Paul McCartney as well as Succession actor James Cromwell and celebrity chef Babette Davis, who both superglued their hands to café counters at Starbucks stores in protest of the upcharge. Cromwell also starred in an inventive ad spot in which he portrays a greedy, fictional Starbucks executive who exploits eco-conscious customers by charging them up to 90 cents more for vegan milk. PETA is using geofencing technology to push the spot into the web browsers of Starbucks executives at the company’s headquarters and customers at its Reserve Roastery in Seattle.

On Friday, a 13-year-old PETA supporter named Evan was arrested at a Starbucks in Winter Garden, Florida, during a peaceful sit-in as part of the campaign to end the vegan upcharge. Evan and his family were joining other PETA members at the protest when police asked them to leave—and dramatic video shows that he was complying when officers grabbed him, shoved him face-down onto a table, and handcuffed him.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

The full shareholder questions follow.

PETA Question:
I have a question on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

There was a time when lawsuits against coffee retailers were limited to hot-coffee spills, but those days are long gone. Shareholders may not realize it, but more and more complaints and lawsuits are being filed against coffee retailers—including Starbucks—for reasons that include customer exploitation, humane washing, and discrimination.

Dunkin’ is being sued for $5 million over claims that the coffee chain discriminates against lactose-intolerant customers and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by charging extra for nondairy milk. The lawsuit also includes claims under state disability discrimination laws in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas—the states where the plaintiffs are located.

The global plant-milk market is anticipated to grow from $20 billion to $51.87 billion by 2032. Some of the main factors for growth cited are shifting dietary habits, rising rates of lactose intolerance, and environmental issues caused by dairy farming.

Given the projected growth in vegan milk consumption as well as the litigious climate in which coffee retailers increasingly find themselves, why does Starbucks insist on continuing to impose an upcharge on nondairy milks in lieu of avoiding potential costs and reputational damage by simply dropping it?

Donor Question:
I have been a longtime customer and shareholder of Starbucks. I remember when Starbucks was one of the first coffeehouses to offer plant-based milks. This was decades ago. Access to and consumer demand for plant milk have never been stronger. Plant milk is much healthier for us than cow’s milk, and there are no cruelty-to-animals concerns with plant milk. Furthermore, climate scientists around the world recommend that people drop dairy to cut pollution and stave off global warming. It’s time that Starbucks rewarded people, not penalized them, for opting out of dairy. I would like to ask this: Why won’t Starbucks U.S. charge people extra for dairy instead of vegan milks?

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