An Open Letter To Starbucks: Up Your Allergy-Friendly Food Game, Please
As a former Starbucks barista, I appreciate the way you do business. In so many areas, you’ve been a leader. From transforming a cup of coffee from a commodity to an experience, to offering benefits and college education help to employees who work more than 20 hours a week, you’ve helped define not only how Americans consume their coffee and tea, but how we think about corporate responsibility.
But it’s past time for you to take the lead again, this time on another front: offering more gluten-free and dairy-free food products. I enjoy a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle, and going out to coffee with friends and family. I love seeing people from all ages and walks of life enter one of your stores and make themselves at home. I appreciate how you don’t push people away after using the internet for two hours. I like how quickly you can make a latte when I am in a hurry and need an espresso fix. I appreciate that my go-to drink will always taste the same, no matter which store I walk into. I feel so special when baristas at my home store know my name and my drink.
But people who wrestle with food allergies like me have a difficult time enjoying the Starbucks experience to the fullest. I wish you served more gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options.
A little over five years ago, you launched a menu of gluten-free baked goods. When I heard the news, I was ecstatic. That did not last, unfortunately, because the items would not stay fresh.
Sure, right now there is a gluten-free marshmallow dream bar on your menu. And I’m happy for customers on a gluten-free diet who can enjoy their fancy rice krispy treat. But seriously, who wants a marshmallow dream bar with coffee? You also offer bags of almonds and mixed nuts, potato chips, and freeze-dried fruit. While this may be helpful for some, I personally want something to enjoy with my coffee. When my husband orders a croissant, or my friend orders a slice of coffee cake, I’m reminded that I am missing out.
A few ideas, for starters: How about gluten-free, dairy free muffins and coffee cakes, and almond milk lattes. (Some of my favorite local coffee shops offer almond milk and rice milk, in addition to nonfat, 2 percent, and soy. I respect that you are trying to avoid cross-contamination for the health of your customers with severe nut allergies, but I fear that you are neglecting customers who avoid dairy and soy.)
Basically, a lot of your current offerings, except without increasingly common allergens such as dairy and gluten.
Please consider broadening your menu horizon for the betterment of your customers with food allergies, and in turn, for the betterment of your company.
I'm Ali. I write about my journey of living a full and healthy life with food allergies, overcoming the comparison trap, and cultivating authenticity.