Will Starbucks drop the vegan tax? That's the question that remains unanswered after the 2020 shareholders call yesterday. The company continues to charge up to 80 cents more for plant-based milk in your latte or other beverage, even though it admits that traditional dairy is a large part of its carbon footprint. After weeks of ongoing protests against the company by celebrities like Alicia Silverstone, individuals, and PETA, at the shareholder's call in Seattle yesterday, Starbucks says it is going to "monitor" the situation closely. Meaning: No answer.

Starbucks won't say when it will drop the extra fees for plant-based milk in the coffees, just that they are looking at the extra amount that these milks cost them to procure, and when those costs come down, they plan to pass those savings onto the customer. A hedge.

In minute 40 of the open questions part of the call, answering a question from PETA, Kevin Johnson, the CEO read the question and then said, "Roz I am going to hand this over to you,"  (otherwise known as passing the buck.) At which point Roz Brewer (COO) explained that they are moving toward a "planet positive" initiative that gives back more than they take in terms of their carbon footprint, but she would not commit to a timetable for doing away with the surcharge on plant-based milk. She did say that Starbucks has introduced a variety of plant-based products including a Beyond Meat cheddar and egg breakfast sandwich in Canada and are planning to bring it to the US. but she did not say when.

Brewer reiterated their commitment to social responsibility but said the prices "are in line with the broader industry." Other companies do not charge the surcharge on plant-based milks, however, which she failed to add. "As you know the alternative milk costs more than dairy. We expect the costs to come down as the plant-based options mature and as the costs come down we can pass this on to our customers," Brewer explained. In other words, later.

“We’ll continue to innovate on plant-based alternatives and beverages,” she said: “We expect costs [of non-dairy milk] to come down as the supply chain for plant-based options matures and we will pass this onto our customers. We will watch this carefully.”

This is news. Just last month, consumers were protesting Starbucks because of its "vegan tax," even as the company attempts to offer more plant-based options. In December, a jackfruit grain bowl, vegan chocolate, and raspberry cake, and overnight oats were introduced to Starbucks locations in the UK. In January, the company added drinks made with almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk.

PETA bought stock in Starbucks just to have a seat at the table. Their goal is to force the dialogue and represent the growing number of plant-based consumers. It appears to be working.