Dunkin’ Donuts Prepares for New York Big Soda Ban as Starbucks Shrugs


New York politicians are making life difficult for anybody who sells sugared beverages, but it doesn’t stop there. Recently, Dunkin’ Donuts came under fire from state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who doesn’t usually deal with what restaurants serve to their customers.

The state’s pension fund owns 51,400 shares of Dunkin’ Brands Group (worth around $2 million) and DiNapoli has been working toward getting any companies the fund invests in to be more involved in sustainable practices, the New York Times reports. As a result of DiNapoli’s work, Dunkin’ said Thursday that it would announce in the second quarter a timetable for obtaining the palm oil it uses in its products from sustainable sources.

“Consumers may not realize that many of the foods and cosmetics they eat and use contain palm oil that has been harvested in ways that are severely detrimental to the environment,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Shareholder value is enhanced when companies take steps to address the risks associated with environmental practices that promote climate change.”

Meanwhile, Dunkin’ and other coffee vendors in New York City are preparing for the difficult task ahead of informing its customers about which of its drinks have more sugar than the new Mayor Bloomberg-pushed, American Beverage Association-opposed, NYC sugary drinks ban allows. According to the Times, Dunkin’ Donuts is handing out fliers to inform its customers while Starbucks is waiting until the rule goes into effect Tuesday before taking any action.[more]

The new rule will mean that folks buying big coffees at Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s and Starbucks may need to blend in their own sugar packets. For the sodas that the law was aimed at, the equation is simple: If the drink is larger than 16 ounces, it cannot be sold. Coffees larger than that can be sold but the vendor cannot load the beverage up with sugar or a sugar substitute. The size of the drink determines the amount of sugar that can be put in.

McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are saving their baristas a load of trouble and just refusing to put sugar or sugar substitutes into any coffee. Consumers will have to add that step if they so desire. “Our focus is on customer service and making sure that our crew know exactly what to do to comply with the ban,” said Cheryll Forsatz, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, to the Times.

Starbucks, however, is refusing to stir. “We believe that the majority of our products fall outside of the ban given the ability of our customers to customize their beverage,” Starbucks said in a statement to Yahoo News, referring to the ABA-backed lawsuit attempting to block the New York ban. “As there is still ongoing litigation regarding the regulation, we’re not making any immediate changes at this time. We are evaluating which changes we may need to make to our recipes and product offerings and will be using this three-month evaluation period to make the appropriate changes for our customers and to fully comply with the new beverage restrictions.”

All of this locks into a battle that has been raging for years (and is currently led by First Lady Michelle Obama) against the rise of childhood obesity in America.

A new best-selling book, Salt Sugar Fat by Pulitzer-winning author Michael Moss, studies America’s eating patterns and spills many untold stories of the food industry, including a 1999 secret meeting between 11 CEOs from consumer packaged-food giants such as Kraft, Pillsbury, P&G, Nabisco, Coca-Cola and Mars to talk about the issue. The whole thing pretty much came to an end, Moss reports in the book, when General Mills CEO Stephen Sanger stood up and said, “Don’t talk to me about nutrition. Talk to me about taste, and if this stuff tastes better, don’t run around trying to sell stuff that doesn’t taste good.”