Bucking Starbucks: What’s Really In Your Latte

I have a good friend who owns several independent coffee houses in a city here on the East Coast. He started out small and has since expanded to three shops. He buys his pastries and bagels locally and serves fairly-traded coffee. And the business is very successful. I hope it stays that way.

He mentioned that one aspect of Starbuck’s marketing strategy is to research where independent coffee houses are doing well because that means that there is a good customer base in the area. Then it moves in across the street and drives the small shop out of business.

As for fair trade? On their website, Starbucks claims to be committed to the idea, purchasing 18 million pounds of fair trade certified coffee in 2006. Sounds like a lot, huh? The company purchased a total of 300 million pounds in 2006, so fair trade accounted for about 6 percent. In other words, not much.

So your latte may be nice, warm and cheap, but it comes with a price not reflected on the pretty board above your head. The ingredients include sugar, caffeine, cream, poor wages, bad labor conditions, independent coffee shop deaths, and a big dose of monopoly.

So drink up. But consider voting for coffee that gives life to independent shop owners and coffee growers. Let your money do something more than provide you with a quick buzz.





  1. This was a very informative article and confirms what I have known all along about Starbucks. Any further information you can send me would be helpful. I am currently writing a business plan that involves direct trade (dealing directly with farmers all over the world) so that I can ensure all of my coffee is fairly traded. I have several connections in various coffee regions and am still building my network. It’s encouraging to hear about your friend with the independent shop! Blessings


  2. Thank you for your comment.

    Ten Thousand Villages
    sells fair trade crafts from around the world. They are a founding member of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT). The coffee Ten Thousand Villages sells is from Equal Exchange, a non-profit fair trade company (good stuff).

    I would recommend hooking up with some of these established fair trade organizations for networking, support, and experience. These are just a few of the many who are out there doing great work. Just like you!


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