Hello and welcome to the Coffee News Club, a weekly summary of top coffee news.
RTD coffee takes a hit with recalls, Starbucks is under fire for skipping benefits for union stores, and we’re all opening underwater cafes (in a video game, of course).
Here are the top stories this week.
‘Major Lyons Magnus Recalls Impacts Leading Coffee Brands’ – via Sprudge
Ready-to-drink items from Stumptown, Intelligentsia, and Oatly were among 53 other products voluntarily recalled by US-based white label manufacturer Lyons Magnus.
Lyons Magnus says the recall is due to the products not reaching commercial sterility specifications. The recall, issued July 28th, was due to “the potential for microbial contamination, including from the organism Cronobacter sakazakii,” according to the company’s announcement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.
Cronobacter sakazakii is the bacteria that caused the powdered infant formula recall earlier this year that led to two infant deaths, according to Consumer Reports. As of Sprudge’s publication on August 4th, no illnesses have been linked to the Lyons Magnus recall.
Sprudge lists all the coffee products implicated, including two Intelligentsia and five Stumptown RTD beverages, Oatly’s Oat Milk Barista Edition, and Lyon Magnus’ brand Barista Style range. Only specific UPC and lot codes are included in the recall, a list of which can be found in the FDA announcement.
‘Starbucks Union Asks Coffee Giant to Extend Pay Hikes, Benefits to Unionized Stores’ – via CNBC
Starbucks Workers United has written to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, asking the company to extend the soon-to-kick-in pay increases to the 200+ unionized stores without going through the bargaining process.
When announcing the pay and benefit increases this past May, Shultz mentioned that unionized or unionizing stores would be excluded because federal law “prohibits us from promising new wages and benefits at stores involved in union organizing.”
Not so, says the letter, pointing out that the company can legally offer benefits to unionized stores without bargaining as long as the union agrees. “Workers United refuses to stand by while Starbucks cynically promises new benefits only to non-unionized workers and withholds them from our members,” Lynne Fox, president of Workers United, states in the letter.
Experts and labor activists interviewed by CNBC tend to concur: the law says companies must give a union notice of new benefits and the chance to bargain, says Catherine Creighton, director of Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School in Buffalo, New York. However, “if the union says they have no objection, then the employer can absolutely give them that benefit.”
Starbucks plans to spend $1 billion on the raises as well as training and store improvements, a move activists claim is a direct result of the union drive. “It seems that they’re addressing all the problems that we have been bringing up on a national level,” Starbucks barista and organizing committee member Kylah Clay told Restaurant Dive in May. “All of these benefits would not have been introduced, but for our organizing efforts.”
‘Fairwave Acquires Minneapolis-Based Up Coffee Roasters, Seeks Continued Midwest Growth’ — Daily Coffee News
‘CoE and ACE Announce New Auction Platform’ — GCR Mag
‘Starbucks Taps into a Cold Coffee Revolution’ — QSR
‘Nguyen Coffee Supply is the First Canned Vietnamese Coffee Cold Brew’ — hypebeast.com
‘Live Your Underwater Cafe Fantasies With The New Espresso Tycoon Release’ — Sprudge
The Week in Coffee Unionizing
While the big news this week concerned the Starbucks wage increases, there were still some other notable developments:
- After voting to unionize in June, Starbucks baristas in Brookline, Massachusetts, have been striking for 16 days, alleging retaliation by the company. Now they’re getting ready to fight a legal battle with the corporation, which has threatened to bring in replacement baristas.
- Starbucks has fired 70 pro-union workers since February, according to the progressive media organization More Perfect Union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently fighting Starbucks over several of these firings, which have taken place in more than 20 states.
- The NLRB dismissed charges brought by Starbucks against union organizers in Phoenix, Arizona. The ruling found that there was not enough evidence that attendees at a pro-union rally threatened and intimidated customers and other workers, as claimed by the company.
- As noted on Twitter, Starbucks hired a former CIA agent and Pinkerton employee as manager of Global Intelligence for retail operations in March—which brings to mind a recent headline in The Onion: ‘Starbucks Fights Unionization Effort By Hiring Pinkertons To Order Exhausting, Hyper-Specific Drinks
The Week in Corporate Coffeewashing
Nestlé is getting a lot of positive news lately. Last week, the company announced it’d be opening the “most modern and sustainable coffee plant” in Mexico, followed by this week’s credulous profile in Australia’s Bean Scene Magazine.
Why credulous? It seems like the article takes Nestlé at face value. Take the opening paragraph:
While Nestlé has expressed the ambition to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, at the heart of its goals lies the aim to inspire collective action in its customers and end consumers. In this way, as the world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestlé has a unique opportunity to address the issue of climate change.
For one thing, at the pace we’re going, 2050 might already be too late. But it’s also revealing that Nestlé plans to offload responsibility for much of its promised carbon reduction onto its customers by, as it says further down in the article, encouraging “more sustainable purchasing and consumption.” Nespresso’s current capsule recycle rate is 30% globally, meaning that the vast majority of its capsules—12,000 tons of aluminum annually, according to the Guardian—go to landfill or worse. Not very sustainable, that consumption.
Nestlé’s various coffee businesses brought in $25.7 billion in 2021, so it clearly has the funds to more effectively and rapidly deal with its contributions to the climate crisis. Whether or not it actually has the ambition, as the article claims, or is content continuing to promise and greenwash, remains to be seen.
What To Read
‘The Upstart Union Challenging Starbucks’ by E. Tammy Kim
‘Cold Coffee for a New Cohort: What Chamberlain Coffee Says About Gen Z Coffee Drinkers’ by Sasha Weilbaker
‘Media Critic Adam Johnson on Starbucks, Crime, and Store Closures’ by Fionn Pooler (that’s me!)
Coffee News Club is written by Fionn Pooler and the Fresh Cup editorial team.