Industry News | January 9, 2018 | By Danny Klein | QSR Exclusive Brief

Judge Tosses Case Accusing Starbucks of Underfilling Lattes

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U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, out of Oakland, California, dismissed a lawsuit accusing Starbucks of overcharging customers by underfilling mochas and lattes to reduce milk costs.

The class-action suit was filed March 2016 by Siera Strumlauf and Benjamin Robles of California. Explaining the nature of the action, it stated: “This is a class action lawsuit on behalf of purchasers of Starbucks Caffè Lattes, Flavored Lattes, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Egg Nog Lattes, Skinny Lattes, Skinny Flavored Lattes, Vanilla Lattes, and Skinny Vanilla Lattes (collectively, “Lattes”). The suit claimed “Starbucks Lattes are uniformly underfilled pursuant to a standardized recipe. Tall Lattes are not 12 fluid ounces, Grande Lattes are not 16 fluid ounces, and Venti Lattes are not 20 fluid ounces. Starbucks cheats purchasers by providing less fluid ounces in their Lattes than represented. In fact, Starbucks Lattes are approximately 25 percent underfilled.”

On Friday, Rogers found a lack of evidence to back the claims, which included Starbucks using “fill-to” lines on milk pitchers that came up short, telling baristas to purposely hold back ingredients, and making its cups too small. Starbucks was being accused of leaving a quarter-inch of space atop drinks. Rogers also threw out the notion that milk foam added to drinks should not count toward advertised volumes. The plaintiffs conceded that the foam is essential to their drinks.

Starbucks said milk expands when it steams, and Rogers agreed. The lattes and mochas are made with espresso, steamed milk, and foam, with chocolate sauce being added to the latter option.

This isn’t’ the first case to be tossed against Starbucks and its beverages. In 2016, two federal judges dismissed separate lawsuits accusing the chain of misleading customers who purchased iced beverages. The judges ruled that customers would understand that ice counts toward their drinks’ contents.