Friday, 30 September 2011

Note to Starbucks: Bring it!

I recently emailed Starbucks Customer Service to find out which drinks are gluten free:

I am on a strict gluten free diet, even trace amounts of wheat, rye, oats or barley can make me sick. Could you tell me if there are any drinks at Starbucks that are completely gluten free? This information would be very helpful to me!

The response that I received was disappointing:

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

Starbucks is unable to guarantee a "gluten-free" environment in our retail locations due to the potential for cross contamination with gluten-containing products. The open environment and operating procedures of our store locations may present additional risk for gluten-sensitive customers aside from the gluten-containing ingredients themselves. "Gluten-free" is a claim with specific requirements defined by government agencies and industry standards. We are unable to make this claim on a product unless the item is specifically formulated and manufactured to meet the definition of the claim

If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know.

I feel that Starbucks can do better, and in different words I'm basically asking Starbucks to "Bring it!". Come on Starbucks, you can do better than that!

Thank you for your response.

Are there any plans in place to modify your operating procedures so that Starbucks drinks could be a safe option for those who are on gluten free diets? I have no first-hand barista experience, but from the customer side it seems like it would be fairly straight-forward to make safe drinks.

Lattes: If your beans are gluten free, everything that goes through your espresso machine is safe. I believe your steamers are only used to steam milk (you would have to verify that your soy milk or other milk alternatives are gluten free), so your steaming equipment is safe. Then you have your syrups - if you could identify which syrups are gluten free we have ourselves a gluten free latte!

Blended ice drinks and smoothies: If you can verify which ingredients are gluten free, and ensure that good cleaning practices are in place, this could provide many safe options.

Bottled drinks: Do you know which bottled drinks are gluten free? The teas? The frappuccinos? Juices? Even this is helpful.

We all realize that there are risks to consuming anything that is not produced in a gluten free environment, but if we are very careful and if the staff are properly trained, it is extremely feasible to produce safe products. Food can be quite tricky, but drinks are especially straight-forward.

By taking a "unable to guarantee a "gluten-free" environment" stance Starbucks is greatly limiting their customer base. There are over 3 million Americans with celiac disease and many more who are gluten intolerant. We would love to know that we have options at Starbucks, as eating on the go is very challenging.

I would love to know if Starbucks has any plans to become more accommodating to people restricted to a gluten free diet! Thanks for your help.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a response...

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

I am truly sorry to hear about your Gluten inquiry.

I want you to know that we take feedback from our loyal customers seriously. Because you know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks, I will share this with the appropriate department here in our corporate office.

We have made a promise to our customers to provide outstanding products and service. I know that this is a primary reason why you visit Starbucks and I understand how disappointing it is when we let you down.

Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to improve what we do.

If you have any further questions or concerns that I was unable to address, please feel free to let me know.

I am typically very accepting when a company indicates that it's products are not safe for those who cannot have gluten, but in this case I thought it was a bit silly of them to not even try. Starbucks seems to be everywhere, and it would be so nice to be able to travel and know that there is such an easy-to-find coffee shop to grab a safe latte.

If you feel the same way I am sure Starbucks would love to hear from you! info(at)starbucks(dot)com Pass along the message to anyone you know who would support gluten free drinks at Starbucks!

Shop at or and support Gluten Free Bumble Bee.

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