Caribou Coffee Is Ditching Extra Charges For Non-Dairy Milk On Its App

While customers of Caribou Coffee are currently enjoying oat milk lattes with no upcharge for the non-dairy milk, that promotion — which began earlier this year — ends on May 3, 2023. However, those customers are still in luck! The coffee chain announced in a press release that it's implementing a new policy that makes non-dairy milk options free of charge for Caribou Perks members who order through the company's mobile app beginning on May 4. 

Caribou Coffee says that nearly 20% of its beverages are ordered with either almond or oat milk, a growing trend led by customers using the chain's app. Now customers who join Caribou Perks and order ahead via the app will enjoy upcharge-free dairy-free milk. The coffee chain's decision to eliminate this non-dairy surcharge is an attempt to thread the needle in a sense, finding a middle-ground through the growing frustration from consumers over coffee companies who charge more for non-dairy milks than they do for dairy milk.

As non-dairy milk alternatives become more popular, controversy grows

As additional plant-based milks enter the market, and as new flavors are introduced and formulas refined to make them even more palatable, consumers who choose non-dairy milk for their coffee are increasingly incensed by what some call a "vegan tax," or charging customers more for choosing plant-based options.

Though some coffee chains, like Stumptown Coffee Roasters, have led the way by charging the same price for dairy and non-dairy milk, other companies continue to charge more for customizing your beverage with oat or almond milk. Starbucks did eliminate non-dairy surcharges in its U.K. locations but still charges U.S. customers more when they opt for non-dairy milk, a move that has spurred PETA to organize recent protests calling for Starbucks to end its dairy-free surcharge. Peet's Coffee announced it was eliminating its dairy-free milk surcharge for Earth Month in April, but the company will reinstate the surcharge in May.

While plant-based milks do cost more than dairy milk, The Guardian argues the price difference isn't simply the increased costs of producing non-dairy milk, but rather is, at least in part, a result of government subsidies for the dairy industry. Caribou Coffee's elimination of the non-dairy surcharge — at least for some of its customers — is a step toward decreasing the cost of choosing food options with a smaller environmental footprint.