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Café owner defends 'extreme' $1.50 almond milk charge: 'It is fair'

The owner said he goes through 10 to 15 cartoons of milk alternatives a day.

Pheobe Parsons in stills from her TikTok video.
An influencer has sparked debate online after questioning the extra costs added to coffees when you order non-dairy milks. (Source: TikTok)

An Australian woman has questioned why non-dairy products like almond milk cause the costs of your morning coffee to spike by as much as $1.50. It's a common frustration for many regular café goers.

Brisbane podcaster and fitness instructor Phoebe Parsons put the question out there after buying an almond milk cappuccino. She sparked a wave of Australians questioning why there was such a big price difference, particularly in a cost of living crisis.

"I know that almond milk does cost a little bit more than dairy milk. But does it cost that much that it warrants a full $1.50 elevation?" she said.

Owner of Coogee juice bar Melonhead John Kanaan doesn't charge extra for milk alternatives in his coffees. But he's come out in defence of businesses that do.

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“It’s definitely nearly double the price for half the amount [of regular milk] for those non-dairy alternatives,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“So it is roughly $2.50 to $3.50 for two litres of full cream or skim milk, and $4 to $4.50 for a one-litre almond, soy, oat or macadamia alternative.”

The view from the outside of Melonhead (left) and the Melonhead counter (right).
John Kaanan, the owner of Melonhead in Sydney's eastern beaches, said he goes through 10 to 15 cartons of dairy alternatives a day. (Source: Supplied) (Supplied)

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He sells more smoothies than coffees and does charge a $1 extra for milk alternatives in those. He goes through about 10 to 15 cartons a day.

A one litre carton of almond milk would make roughly four to five regular coffees, he said.

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But when it comes to a 700ml smoothie he needed to add a lot more milk, which is why there's an additional $1 slapped on.

“We don’t charge extra for those alternatives in coffee because we don’t sell many coffees. I guess it’s also an extra incentive for people to come to us in winter time.”

Kaanan has owned Melonhead for seven years and said that while “every café is different”, companies are being forced to make tough decisions about charging customers more.

“It is fair,” he argued, defending the extra charge for milk alternatives.

“Businesses do have a lot of overheads with inflation, minimum pay going up next month, rent increases, and the cost of everything going up, so most things are passed on to customers, unfortunately.

“It’s sad but that’s business and it’s not easy.”

Business consultant Liz Fitzsimons agreed, adding that customers have also got to keep in mind that they’re paying for the experience.

“With a café, there's so much more that comes into it,” she told Yahoo Finance.

“It’s the barista who greets you and remembers your order. It's the atmosphere that's created in that café. It's the experience that they're selling, not just that item.

“So sure, you could make your coffee at home and buy the cheaper alternative milk product, but you won’t get that experience.”

Many Australians agreed with Parsons that the additional cost of non-dairy alternatives are steep.

“$1.50 is extreme, 50 to 80 cents is fairer,” one person wrote.

“Years ago when alternative milk wasn’t as popular, I understood the extra,” another added.

“But nowadays with the cost of dairy and more options with alternative milks, I really wonder if it makes a difference at all.”

Others defended business owners who passed on the costs.

“Alternative milk is about double the cost of cows milk, plus the interruption of the flow of the coffee machine by constantly switching between seven different milks add up to a lot of extra time in staff wages,” one person wrote.

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