Paying for Preference – should we have to pay for milk alternatives?


Photo: Pixabay

Recent years have seen a decline in popularity for cow’s milk and a soar in dairy free alternatives. Consumption rates have dropped by 30% in the last 20 years, and UK coffee chains such as Starbucks, Costa and Pret a Manger, including outlets on campus, have started offering multiple options for people who would prefer to drink plant-based beverages – but at a price.

People looking for coconut, oat, almond or rice milk can usually expect to pay a 40p charge to swap from cow’s milk. This can be explained due the higher price point for buying this milk – as soya milk, the only commonly free alternative, has a considerably lower price per litre than its more expensive counterparts. On campus, The Coffee Room, Costa and Starbucks all charge for milk alternatives – but students, who both choose to drink milk alternatives due to dietary preference or medical conditions such as lactose intolerance or allergies, are not happy with this.

A Starbucks employee, who has chosen to remain anonymous, thinks it is ‘poor’ that only one dairy substitute is offered.

“Soy is a high allergen for some people – and ‘Proud to Serve’ even charge for soy. When you can have whole, semi, skimmed milk and even cream for no extra charge, it’s annoying how all coffee chains only offer soy for free.”

Coffee shops in recent years have seen a massive push towards being eco-friendly – with discount for consumers who bring in their own coffee cups being offered as a way to cut down on plastic waste. Benefit to the environment is also a reason that most milk alternative lovers choose to steer clear of cow’s milk, but some believe coffee shops imposing what can be seen as a fine for drinking milk alternatives is setting back their eco-friendly efforts.

Alice Lester, a food and fitness blogger atwhatthekale.weebly.com, has always opted for a milk alternative.

“I can understand why they charge more because they can’t buy the alternatives in as greater bulk as dairy milk because of demand, but I also feel like they could afford to and still make a profit by selling alternatives at the same price as dairy.

“I do think it’s unreasonable to charge the amount more, and it takes away the benefit of saving money when you bring in your own cup.”

Sam Lovatt, first year student and vegan, thinks “most coffee shops, especially the large ones, should incorporate it into their Corporate Social Responsibility as plant milk damages the environment less, and are less cruel.

“With the vegan population growing so much it’s likely the point where large chains are losing more money due to vegans not buying their products than they would be by spending more money on milk alternatives.”

With the vegan and eco-friendly movement gaining more momentum every day, it’s expected that more and more pressure will be piled on coffee shops to provide alternatives to cow’s milk. Consumers are getting frustrated with the lack of options presented to them, but only time will tell whether their complaints will amount to change.

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