Paul McCartney Urged Outgoing Starbucks CEO To Stop Charging More for Dairy-Free Milk

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Sir Paul McCartney has made a personal request to outgoing Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson. In a letter published by Billboard, the Beatles co-founder and activist asked Johnson to drop the U.S.  dairy-free milk surcharge before he left his position. McCartney expressed his surprise that the measure had yet to be taken, given that the U.K. and India have both done so.

The letter was written in support of an ongoing PETA campaign. The activist-led organisation has been applying pressure on Starbucks to stop charging more for animal-free milk for some time. McCartney submitted his letter before rolling into Seattle, birthplace of Starbucks, on his latest tour. 

Paul McCartney took Starbucks on
Photo by Starbucks.

Starbucks berated by a Beatle

Starbucks currently adds a minimum of an extra 70 cents to every drink order made using dairy-free milk. PETA has called out the company for discriminating against those that can’t or won’t drink animal milk. McCartney has also weighed in.

“My friends at PETA are campaigning for this,” he said in his direct address to Johnson. “I sincerely hope that for the future of the planet and animal welfare you are able to implement this policy.”

McCartney highlights that he has only recently become aware of the pricing policy. Armed with his new enlightenment, he “politely requested” that the U.S. follows the lead set by U.K. and India Starbucks locations.

Starbucks’ history of surcharge woes

McCartney is not the first big hitter to lend his weight to campaigns urging Starbucks to drop its plant milk surcharge. In recent years, attention-seeking methodologies have been employed, with the most memorable, arguably, being the Switch4Good spoof in December last year.

A fake press statement was released, stating that the coffee chain would be dropping all plant milk surcharges in a bid to address decades of dietary racism. Switch4Good was happy to admit it had engineered the stunt, in a bid to draw attention to the archaic practice and the troubling consequences thereof. Within a month, Starbucks U.K. announced it actually was dropping its surcharge policy. The company made no comment to confirm or deny that the spoof was the catalyst. To date, 1,020 global locations have dropped the add-on cost, though close to 30,000 more still need to get on board.

Perfect Day's Dairy-Identical Alt Milk Lands at Starbucks
Photo by Starbucks.

Did Johnson listen?

The short answer is no. No announcement about surcharge scrapping was made before Johnson bowed out on April 4. PETA took the former CEO to task, stating that unlike him, dairy cows don’t get the luxury of a happy retirement.

The lack of last-minute action from Johnson was considered a disappointment by many. As CEO, he had been vocal about the impact dairy had on the chain’s sustainability ambitions and carbon footprint. He went further and acknowledged that up to 20 percent of consumers already chose plant milk, alluding to that being a big part of the company’s future. He did nothing to cement that before leaving his role, however, leading PETA to level an accusation of empty words.

Dismay at milk surcharges worldwide

McDonald’s might be next in line for a celebrity letter. In November last year, the company announced it had added oat milk to its Australian menus, supplied by domestic brand MilkLab. However, celebrations were short-lived as it emerged that the option would carry a surcharge.

Lead image created in-house.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

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