First, Starbucks issued a game-changer for corporations: Starbucks showed its support for marriage equality and the marriage equality bill in its home state, Washington. In an email, vice president of Partner Resources Kalen Holmes wrote, "Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples… We are deeply dedicated to embracing diversity and treating one another with respect and dignity, and remain committed to providing an inclusive, supportive, and safe work environment for all of our partners. We look forward to seeing this legislation enacted into law." In response to Starbucks’ support, the LBGT community organized the Starbucks Appreciation Day for Marriage Equality. As people lined up at Chick-fil-A to support its stance against gay marriage, supporters of marriage equality lined up at Starbucks in August. "Let's affirm a business that operates on moral principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for human dignity and upstanding values, the same that we advocate by simply showing up, drinking and eating at Starbucks," wrote Kristin Palladino, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Equally Wed, an online "LGBT wedding magazine." "This grassroots effort is quite simply full of love and appreciation for a company that stands up for us, for what is right, for what is just." The religious right wasn’t so thrilled with Starbucks, and planned to rile up Middle Eastern residents — where new locations of Starbucks are opening — to get them to protest against its stance on marriage equality. Still, after Washington’s same-sex marriage bill passed in November, it’s clear Starbucks came down on the side of its hometown residents. (Another issue Starbucks found itself in the middle of? Gun control.)
What, you didn't order red insect dye in your Frappuccino? Once word got out that the Strawberry Frappuccino included cochineal, or red insect dye, in its formula, everyone freaked. In April, the company officially replaced it with lycopene, a tomato-based extract. The full transition to lycopene was expected to be completed in June 2012. A win for animal (or bug?) lovers everywhere!
Starbucks kept on track with its expansion in Europe, Asia, and India. Back in August, Starbucks announced it would open an additional 1,200 stores, with about 500 international locations. Of course, that doesn’t mean it all went off without a hitch: Parisian residents (and lovers of true espresso) didn’t exactly get on board with Starbucks coffee, along with Italian residents. One market that did remarkably well: India. Though many wondered whether Starbucks could crack into a region known for its love for tea, the lines for the India Starbucks were hours long. (And we were obsessed with the library-esque pop-up store in Tokyo.) And if you were in the U.S., it was clear: you were always within 170 miles of a Starbucks.
Starbucks officially removed the "coffee" in its title in 2011, and the move to gain tea and juice drinkers became only clearer in 2012. From the first Evolution juice bar, to the purchase of Teavana for its teas, to the Starbucks branded-energy drinks, don’t be surprised if coffee becomes the second choice in stores.
And you thought your Starbucks was pricey as is. In the beginning of the year, Starbucks was caught charging a hidden fee that really, really pissed off customers. And that was on top of higher prices from 2011. And it just kept getting pricier, and more elite. The Clover brewing machines hit new markets in 2012, like Brooklyn, N.Y, to presumably compete with the Stumptowns and Intelligentsias of the coffee world. When even the original maker of the Starbucks Frappuccino decries what coffee culture in America has become, you know you have to change your tune.
And in September, Starbucks changed its reward program to not include flavored syrups or soy milk in drinks, a move that angered vegan and lactose-intolerant customers. (And those who pay a lot of moolah to be a Rewards member.) And one dude even found a way to make a $23.60, Trenta Java Chip Frappuccino with soy milk, caramel flavoring, banana purée, strawberry purée, vanilla beans, matcha powder, protein powder, and a drizzle of caramel and mocha. Whew! And let’s not forget the $7 cup of Geisha coffee that premiered last month or the ridiculous $450 metal Starbucks gift card, which eventually fetched more than $1,000 on eBay. At least the new Square mobile payment system made overpaying super easy.