If you’re looking for a little treat this first week of Veganuary—a month-long challenge to eat vegan during the month of January—Starbucks has got you covered.
Starting today, a new non-dairy drink joins the popular Iced Shaken Espresso lineup at Starbucks—a series that is built around oat milk. The new Iced Hazelnut Oatmilk Shaken Espresso is inspired by classic coffee shop flavors and will be available year-round.
The introduction of this new non-dairy beverage coincides with another climate-friendly move at Starbucks, where you can now bring your own cup for every occasion.
Starbucks’ oat milk drinks
It is no secret that non-dairy milk is much more environmentally friendly than dairy—and coffee shop giants are leaning on it to help cut down their carbon footprints.
Starbucks first introduced oat milk as its fourth vegan milk option to its locations nationwide in 2021 and featured it in the Iced Brown Sugar Shaken Oatmilk Espresso—which became such a hit that Starbucks temporarily experienced an oat milk shortage.
It has since been exploring the possibilities of this non-dairy milk as a base for various beverages. One of its more interesting explorations was the Oleato Gingerbread Oatmilk Latte. Starbucks launched this vegan beverage last year as a part of its Oleato series, which blends arabica coffee with Partanna cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil.
Billy Altieri, Senior Product Developer at Starbucks, described the latte as “cozy and warming,” perfectly balancing the Starbucks Blonde Espresso with steamed oat milk and gingerbread syrup.
The newest addition, the Iced Hazelnut Oatmilk Shaken Espresso adds another dimension to Starbucks’ non-dairy drink repertoire. This one is made with hazelnut syrup, Blonde espresso, and oat milk, which baristas shake with ice.
“Hazelnut is a classic coffeehouse flavor—its smooth, nutty taste is perfectly complemented by the candied apple and bittersweet chocolate notes of Starbucks Blonde Espresso,” Altieri said in a statement.
“The oatmilk adds a creamy and luscious texture to round out the Iced Hazelnut Oatmilk Shaken Espresso,” Altieri said.
Outside of its oat milk lineup, Starbucks has also gotten creative with its seasonal non-dairy offerings, including the Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte, which launched as the coffee chain’s first vegan holiday drink in 2021.
Inspired by German “spritzen” sugar cookies, this beverage—which made a comeback for the 2023 holiday season—combines sugar cookie-flavored syrup with Starbucks Blonde Espresso and almond milk, crowned with colorful cookie sprinkles.
Last holiday season, Starbucks also brought back its first vegan fall drink, the Apple Crisp Macchiato, to its US stores and made it available as an Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso.
The new Hazelnut beverage is the sixth non-dairy drink to join the Iced Shaken Espresso lineup.
Starbucks doubles down on reusable cups
In addition to exploring how non-dairy milk fits into its seasonal drink menus, Starbucks has been working to reduce waste—both steps to meet its goals of becoming a resource-positive company by 2030.
Also starting today, all company-operated and participating licensed stores in the United States and Canada will accept clean personal cups for every visit, including in-store, drive-thru, and mobile app orders.
This move makes Starbucks the only national coffee retailer in the US to offer this option for mobile orders, and the first in Canada to extend this convenience to all drink sizes and types.
This initiative is part of a broader movement to shift towards reusable cups and away from single-use plastics.
“At Starbucks, we envision a future where every beverage can be served in a reusable cup,” Michael Kobori, Starbucks’ Chief Sustainability Officer, said in a statement.
“Offering customers more options to use a personal cup when they visit Starbucks marks tangible progress towards this future,” Kobori said.
The process is straightforward: customers inform the barista that they’ve brought their own cups when ordering. In drive-thrus, a contactless vessel will be used to ensure hygiene and safety. Plus, mobile app users can select the “Personal Cup” option in the customization menu.
Starbucks has tested and refined its reusable cup policy with input from store partners and customers. This includes a successful pilot program in Colorado, where custom smallware was used to transfer orders to personal cups efficiently.
Customers using their personal cups at participating stores will receive a 10¢ discount on their beverage. In the US, Starbucks Rewards members will also earn 25 bonus stars.
Starbucks’ vegan milk upcharge is not sustainable
New vegan drinks at Starbucks and incentivizing guests to participate in its reusable cups program are steps toward achieving its sustainability goals. However, one significant hurdle remains: the vegan milk upcharge at Starbucks. Guests could incur up to 80¢ per beverage for requesting a non-dairy milk substitution, which creates a financial barrier for them in making an environmentally friendly choice.
This practice has drawn criticism from celebrity activists such as Alicia Silverstone, Paul McCartney, and James Cromwell, as well as from animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Although Starbucks has removed the vegan milk surcharge in some countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, in the US, where it operates more than 16,000 stores, the vegan milk upcharge persists, raising concerns about the validity of its commitment to sustainability.
“Starbucks’ upcharge discourages customers from choosing animal- and planet-friendly vegan milks and proves that the company is more concerned about its bottom line than its role in the climate catastrophe,” Tracy Reiman, PETA’s Executive Vice President, previously said in a statement.