This may be old news for some, but Starbucks has discontinued their gluten free breakfast sandwich. It's the second time in the past 9 or so years that Starbucks has launched a delicious gluten free item -- only to discontinue it.
Some of you may remember the cellophane-wrapped orange almond muffin that was introduced about 9 years ago. I thought it was wonderful, and I loved the fact that is was individually wrapped to eliminate any risk of cross contamination. However, they pulled that from stores within a matter of months, without offering another alternative.
About a year ago now -- or maybe closer to two years ago -- they came out with a gluten free breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, and ham on a GF english muffin (shown above). Again, it came pre-prepared and wrapped in a paper bag that remained on for warming up. Nice, safe execution.
I know many of us had enjoyed these sandwiches -- and relied on them for a safe, warm "real meal" either on the way to work or when on the road traveling. It was strange, however, that there was little if any promotion of this sandwich, especially given how many folks need -- or desire -- gluten free options nowadays. Perhaps the lack of promotion led to its inevitable demise.
So...a few weeks ago, I shared my disappointment with Starbucks by submitting a letter via their Contact Us form on their website. Here is what I wrote:
I -- and so many others in the gluten free/Celiac community -- are disappointed and frustrated to hear of your recent decision to discontinue the delicious gluten free breakfast sandwiches.
Why was this done? I can say that if it was because of soft sales, you could have certainly done more to promote it! I never saw it listed or advertised, either in stores or anywhere else. Therefore, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, does it not? If you don't advertise that you have it, people won't know about it or buy it.
Not only did Celiac customers count on -- and look forward to -- this delicious "full meal" (i.e. not just a packaged snack) option from Starbucks, but I'm sure many folks that are gluten free by choice (non medical reasons) would like the option to buy the breakfast sandwich, too. But did they ever even KNOW about it? Again, poor marketing probably equated to slow sales. And now the Celiac community is, once again, left with no options at your stores other than packaged snacks, which you can hardly make a meal out of.
You had similarly offered a wonderful orange/almond muffin years ago (safely packaged in cellophane) but proceeded to remove that from stores quickly after it was introduced. It was then YEARS before you came out with the wonderful breakfast sandwich, now only to remove that as well!
I'm sure you are aware what a large part of the population is Celiac (1%) and must eat gluten free. On top of that, another 5-7% is gluten sensitive, and then there are plenty of others that, when given the choice, choose to purchase gluten free food. This is not a small part of the population...and we are not going away. This is not a "trend" or a "fad diet". In fact, as more people continue to get correctly diagnosed with Celiac, the demand for gluten free foods will only increase.
Could you please let me know why the gluten free breakfast sandwich was discontinued -- and if you have any plans to introduce any other gluten free breakfast options in its stead?
Founder and President, GlutenFreeTravelSite.com, the Dine Gluten Free mobile app, and the Gluten Free Travel Blog
Did I hear back from them? Why, yes, and rather promptly. Within about a half-hour of sending this email, I got an email back. But much to my disappointment, it was clearly a canned "cut and paste" job that is probably used for all gluten free folks writing in to share their disappointment about the discontinued GF breakfast sandwich. Is it me, or does it feel like the people working in customer service at corporations these days simply want to clear out their Inbox as fast as possible, without any sort of personal touch in responding to customer's real concerns and questions? It is so infuriating, especially from a company that prides itself on being so customer focused. Here is what I received from Starbucks:
It would have been more helpful to honestly let me know WHAT factors go into the decision to remove an item from stores -- as well as if there are any plans to introduce something comparable. Then they go on to mention the sous vide egg bites, which are housed in the glass case alongside other gluten-containing baked goods, and the oatmeal (that, in their haste to cut/paste a response, they say are made without any ingredients derived from...oats!!). Are these oats used in the oatmeal certified gluten free? They don't say, but my guess is no. Meaning they are a no-go for anyone with Celiac.
I find it frustrating that, while Starbucks is striving to be that "third place" to gather between work and home, they offer few alternatives for the millions upon millions of GF folks in the country -- other than individually packaged snacks from other companies. The opportunity for other coffee shops to court this market is certainly there. Let's hope someone seizes the opportunity. Starbucks has not adequately addressed this in the past 10+ years since "Celiac" and "gluten free" became household terms.
I'd love your thoughts on this situation...and if you have any insights from contacting Starbucks on your own. And if you care to share a review of any independent -- or other chain -- coffee shop that provides real options for gluten free folks, PLEASE share a review on our gluten free dining and travel review site, GlutenFreeTravelSite.com. It helps people find GF-friendly places near where they work or travel. Many thanks for your support!