Why one cafe owner says it's unfair to pay extra for non-dairy milk

Non-dairy milk like soy or oat milk is now very common in cafes around the country, but we're still expected to pay a surcharge for that special milk in our coffee.

Many cafes charge from 50 cents to even over $1 to swap your milk for a dairy-free substitute - but is it justified?

A one-litre bottle of Anchor blue-top milk costs $3.09, whereas one litre of Boring Oat milk costs $5 – a $1.81 difference.

A litre of milk makes around six flat whites. That means you'd only need to charge 30 cents more to cover the increased cost.

But when you factor in that most cafes buy their dairy milk in bulk, that price gap could widen.

Despite costing more for the business, for one Havelock North cafe owner, making the milk switch comes with no extra charge to the customers.

When Brother owner Halle Evans started the company in November 2022, she decided not to add a charge for dairy substitutes and isn't ever planning on changing that.

"I just wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I did," Evans told The Project.

"I don't think it's fair to charge someone for perhaps having an intolerance or a different taste preference."

She said to cover the cost to the business there are marginal markups elsewhere in places that don't have a huge influence on consumer costs. Her coffees are fair reflection, in line with what other cafes sell, she said.

Evans thinks cafes are used to having surcharges and seeing other cafes do it influences the markup.

"When you see cafes to the right and left doing it as well, you kind of think you have to do the same thing and I don't think that's the case," Evans said.

Watch the full interview above.