Starbucks, Coffee Bean deceive customers
Starbucks, Coffee Bean and seven other take-out coffee brands have deceived their customers by offering products falling short of so-called standard recipes, a state consumer organization said Sunday.
Some franchise brands did not disclose their standard recipes, raising question over their production procedures, said the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA).
“Franchise coffee brands should offer the same amount of products no matter where customers buy it. But it was not the case,” said Song Hye-kyun, a KCA director. “Our research found that they (coffee brands) don’t make products based on standard recipes.”
The country’s largest consumer watchdog carried out extensive research on nine take-out coffee brands. Each has more than 100 stores in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province. They were Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Pascucci, Angel-In-Us, Ediya, Caffe bene, Tom N Toms, A Twosome Place, and Hollys.
The watchdog randomly selected three stores of each brand and bought 540 cups of coffee there ㅡ 10 cups of Americano and Caramel Macchiato, respectively, at each store ㅡ to see whether the products were made in accordance with recipe standards. It also analyzed their calories, caffeine and other elements that can affect consumers’ health.
The research found that U.S. coffee brand Starbucks failed most in serving “equal” amounts of coffee. Its tall-sized Americano was 309 grams on average, 46 grams less than 355 grams stipulated in products specifications that are available at stores and on their website. In an extreme case, a Starbucks Americano was merely 279 grams.
Three other coffee brands ㅡ A Twosome Place, Coffee Bean, and Caffe bene ㅡ also served less coffee (up to 43 grams) than their standard.
“Given that a cup of Americano sells for around 4,000 won ($3.53), the missing coffee per cup is worth 500 won,” the watchdog said. It refuted claims of coffee makers that the missed volume was due to less use of water, not coffee, saying, “No matter what the reason may be, they should have offered equal amounts at all places.”
Starbucks admitted that Americano and Caramel Macchiato are different in quantity, but said it’s “inevitable as long as we hand-make every single cup of coffee one by one.” The firm underscored that the fluctuation is caused by less use of water, adding its espresso is always equal in quantity.
The watchdog criticized the other five brands ㅡ Pascucci, Angel-In-Us, Ediya, Tom N Toms, and Hollys ㅡ for keeping specifications of their products under wraps.
“They have ignored their responsibility to publicize basic information about their products,” KCA said. It urged the five to make public such information as soon as possible to restore confidence in their brand and products.
The research also found that each store uses different amount of coffee to make a cup of Americano and Caramel Macchiato.
The un-standardized production was most common in Starbucks, Hollys, and A Twosome Place. A Caramel Macchiato at a Hollys shop contained 40 percent less coffee than others made in the same location. The ratio at A Twosome Place and Starbucks showed a range between 32 and 34 percent. UP to 17 percent was found in products at six other brands.
KCA warned that frequent consumption of Caramel Macchiato could lead to obesity, saying a cup of Caramel Macchiato has roughly 300 kilocalories, higher than a piece of fried chicken that has 240 kilocalories.