Justice Cup Campaign

When we asked Starbucks to drop their racist upcharge for dairy-free milks, they relented in the UK, Chile, France and several other European countries. Our question is simple: when will Starbucks do the right thing and eliminate the up-charge here in the US? Like charity, justice begins at home.

The Video That Started It All!

We launched a “brandjacking” video, pretending to be Starbucks, eliminating the non-dairy upcharge. But we didn’t stop there (see below)

Ongoing Guerrilla Activism

We picketed an LA Starbucks and visited several additional stores, raising awareness of Starbucks’ dietary racism by paying customers’ non-dairy surcharge. And we have more activism planned… WATCH THIS SPACE!

Why the Justice Cup?

Up to 95 percent of people of color cannot digest dairy. Yet Starbucks charges extra for non-dairy milk. That is dietary racism—even if it’s unintentional. The Justice Cup is designed to highlight the injustice.

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Switch4Good believes charging extra for non-dairy milk is unjust and unfair. Up to 95 percent of BIPOC individuals are lactose intolerant—meaning they cannot digest dairy. However, only 15 percent of white people are affected. So, people of color are disproportionately penalized by Starbucks’ minimum 70 cents upcharge on drinks made with non-dairy milk.

We think that’s incredibly unfair—so we decided to do something about it. We partnered with The Yes Men (who have used humor and trickery since 1996 to highlight the corporate takeover of society) to bring attention to this issue and launch the Justice Cup campaign.

What Did We Do?

On December 9, 2021, we partnered with The Yes Men to mount a “brandjacking” campaign, starting with a spoof Starbucks announcement eliminating the non-dairy upcharge. But we did not stop there.

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  1. Spoofing Starbucks, we issued a Press Release announcing that the company was eliminating its non-dairy upcharge and instead charging more for drinks made with cow’s milk.
  2. The announcement included a link to our spoof Justice Cup launch video and a spoof Starbucks Cares website, featuring the Justice Cup.
  3. When we were confident Starbucks had seen the press release, we made a spoof Denial announcement (still pretending to be Starbucks) refuting the pricing change.
  4. Finally, we issued a Campaign Reveal video—claiming responsibility for the “brandjacking” and outlining our rationale.
  5. After everything was revealed, we issued another Switch4Good Press Releasefleshing out the details of our Dietary Racism Explainer educational video.
  6. We supported the campaign with fun activations. We made fake Vouchers discounting the non-dairy upcharge then sent our team into Starbucks stores to redeem them (see hilarious Going Undercover video). We also made phone calls to Starbucks Customer Service, asking them to drop the upcharge. Turns out Starbucks’ own frontline employees also support our cause.
  7. We published an Open Letter in The Seattle Times (Starbucks’ home town newspaper), thanking them for eliminating the surcharge in the UK and asking them to follow suit in the US. We wait and we hope they will comply.
  8. We executed numerous protest activations to apply public pressure on Starbucks where it counts—in their retail stores.

Campaign Results

Starbucks UK dropped the non-dairy upcharge 3 weeks after we launched The Justice Cup! More than 32 million people saw the campaign. And we added “dietary racism” to the national lexicon.

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  1. Starbucks UK Dropped the Non-dairy Upcharge! We didn’t expect Starbucks to simply acquiesce. But they did—at least in the UK. On December 28th—less than 3 weeks after we launched our campaign—Starbucks UK announced they would stop charging extra for dairy alternatives starting January 5th, 2022.
  2. Switch4Good Received Accolades and Credit for Starbucks’ Policy Change. Numerous media outlets credited Switch4Good’s campaign for Starbucks UK dropping the non-dairy upcharge. Read what Plant Based News, VegNews, Green Queen, and Business Insider had to say about the “coincidence.”
  3. We reached millions of people with our Justice Cup campaign. Conservatively, we reached an audience of over 32 million people through “traditional media” alone. That doesn’t even count social media reach, which is obviously much harder to measure. And it wasn’t just “vegan” media that covered us. Prominent business outlets like Business Insider, Bloomberg, and Yahoo News reported on the campaign. And even though those mainstream outlets removed their stories after the spoof was revealed, for several hours, the news was live. Plus, as the Business Insider story shows, they are still following the story and acknowledging Switch4Good’s role in post-campaign developments at Starbucks.
  4. Our campaign added “dietary racism” to the national lexicon. We didn’t invent the phrase—much less the concept of dietary racism. But if Google search results are any indication of social sentiment and trending topics in the national conversation, Switch4Good’s Justice Cup campaign has spotlighted dietary racism in an unprecedented manner. 

What is Dietary Racism?

Dietary racism is a social construct built by a racial majority that privileges their cultural foodways. It is often an unconscious bias. So, we strive to educate the majority about how their actions affect others and empower minorities to take a stand for their health.

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What Are We Doing Next?

Food justice is one of our top priorities. Our fight extends well beyond dairy alternatives at Starbucks. We are challenging the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Congress and building a BIPOC coalition to end all forms of dietary racism.

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Food justice is one of Switch4Good’s most urgent imperatives. We advocate strenuously for a more equitable, sustainable, and compassionate world—a plant-based, dairy-free world.

Our fight for food justice stretches well beyond dietary racism in coffee shops:

  • We petitioned the USDA to remove dairy from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)—including testifying on Capitol Hill.
  • Having succeeded in getting soy milk recognized as nutritionally equivalent in the DGA, we are now working hard to ensure schools have access to and reimbursement for soy milk
  • We are building a powerful, multicultural coalition to pressure lawmakers into enacting fairer, healthier nutrition policy.
  • We have an ongoing collaboration with BIPOC clinicians, dietitians, activists, athletes, and other thought leaders to spread the word that Dairy Does a Body Bad.

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