I like Starbucks. I like the vibe. I like the service. And yeah…I like the coffee. I didn’t always. Thought it was too strong. But back then, I didn’t exactly drink coffee.
Warning: Coffee-snob sentence coming up!
I’d have coffee with a flavored creamer and a sweet and low. It wasn’t until I got diagnosed with celiac and Mrs. Dude finally convinced me to go dairy-free as well that I went cold turkey and began drinking COFFEE. Just coffee. After a few weeks of adapting…wow, what a difference. I LOVE coffee. And yeah…I love Starbucks coffee.
If you’ve been to a Starbucks, and odds are you have because there is one pretty much on every block, you know they have a HUGE drink menu. And you also probably know that nothing is labeled gluten-free. I’m not talking about the food either…just the drinks. Frustrating for the celiac community. A quick glance at their website, and this is all they offer about gluten:
Allergen information is not available online for our beverage selections at this time. If you have an allergen concern, please feel free to ask our baristas to check the ingredient labels. We cannot guarantee that any of our beverages are allergen free because we use shared equipment and handle allergens throughout the store.
I respect that…but I figured there had to be some way to make Starbucks a bit more celiac-friendly. So I reached out to them with the following email:
Hi folks. Big fan of your company. I also run a popular blog about living with celiac disease over at glutendude.com. I know the community is a bit frustrated with Starbucks because there is absolutely no way to know which of your items contain gluten or not. I’d like to be a part of rectifying this situation. 1) It would mean the world to the celiac community to know a company with such great standing in the world cares about them; and 2) With 1% of the population diagnosed with celiac disease, you could be losing out on a chunk of this business and having everything labeled will be a huge step in getting that 1% back into your stores. I’d LOVE the opportunity to chat with someone in your company about this. Many thanks for your consideration.
Their response was a tad confusing:
Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company. I just finished reading your email and appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns with us. We do understand that Celiac’s disease is a seriously concern for some of our customers, and we do have some packaged products available that are certified gluten-free. Store locations cannot guarantee a gluten-free environment due to the possibility of cross-contamination concerning most of hand-crafted beverages. At this time, Starbucks is not seeking opportunities for national or local partnerships or sponsorships. In addition, we are not accepting product or in-kind requests. We continue to remain focused on funding communities through grants from The Starbucks Foundation programs and our stores local involvement in their communities.
Sponsorship? Partnership? I’m just trying to help their business and help the celiac community at the same time. Not looking for any payout or anything. So I responded in kind:
Thanks for the quick reply but I think you misunderstood me. I am not asking for any funding or any kind of sponsorship. All I’m looking to do is have your menu items labeled properly. This way your customers with celiac disease will know what is safe and what is not safe to order. And I am not referring to your food as much as I am your drinks such as your flavored coffees, lemonades, etc. A celiac simply has no idea what they can order.
And they responded as thus:
Thanks for writing back. We sincerely appreciate your desire to present your research and resources regarding Gluten and Celiac’s Disease to us. Unfortunately, at this time we do not accept unsolicited business ideas or proposals and we are unable to respond to requests to link to third party Web sites. Please know that the only Certified Gluten Free product we offer at all stores is the Gluten Free Marshmallow Dream Bar. The Chewy Chocolate Cookie is not certified gluten free but is “flourless.” I am very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
Kudos to Starbucks for even responding. But I’m not sure they got the gist of my efforts.
Bottom line: Besides black coffee and some of their teas, I’d have to assume absolutely nothing is celiac-safe at Starbucks. What a shame. And just to be clear, this is not a complaint. They are being honest that they can’t keep us safe and they run their business as they see fit.
But perhaps we can persuade them to at least consider our community. Drop ’em a note on their Facebook Page and let them know what it would mean to us AND them to have some celiac-safe drinks. They’ve certainly got the ingenuity and the money to make it happen.
Hey…ya never know.
Update: Someone just posted this Starbucks Allergen Info PDF on my Facebook page. It was last updated March 2015.