business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a couple of emails offering opinions about Starbucks’ new plant-based protein beverages - the Protein Blended Cold Brew in almond and cacao flavors.

One MNB reader wrote:

I’m a huge fan of plant based protein and have been using it for years. (I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian).  The calories don’t scare me but the sugar load is terrifying!

From another reader:

Having just lost 30 lbs on a diet that excludes sugar, fruit based sugar is still sugar, and nearly an ounce of it is too much for me - it does sound delicious though!

MNB reader Nancy Zeidenberg wrote:

Tried the Cacao flavored offering yesterday, and I am not a fan.  At 250 calories I viewed it as a meal replacement option.
I was excited to find it on the menu because I was looking for something to drink other than my usual Grande Pike.  Also, I prefer plant based protein to the dairy/whey commonly found in RTD shakes.  I found the flavor was definitely as billed – cacao – so chocolate without the sweetness but I felt the need to add a packet or two in spite of all the sugar in it…wish I had noticed that first as it would have save me on making a poor choice.  I don’t know if the product was well made or not but I found it crunchy vs smooth with a  gritty consistency which is often the case with protein powders.  I tried it.  I’m done.

And from another reader:

I tried it. It was a little chalky and thick. I wouldn’t buy it again.

Regarding a new format that Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop is said to be planning, one MNB reader wrote:

Methinks they would do well to look at some of their sister stores at Hannaford for some ideas.

Agreed. I’ve always felt that Hannaford is the class of the operation.

Finally … yesterday we took note of a BuzzFeed report that the same baker who recently won a Supreme Court case in which he argued that he was not legally required to sell a custom wedding cake to a gay couple - his rationale was that it conflicted with his religious beliefs, which include disapproving of same-sex marriage - is back in court. This time, he is arguing that he is within his rights not to make a birthday cake for a transgender woman, and once again, he is citing religious freedom as his rationale.

The baker, Jack Phillips, is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. His lawyers argued in US District Court on Tuesday that the cake’s design “would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”

I commented in part:

This is, of course, not just an isolated incident. It is a situation with which many companies and people holding certain beliefs could find themselves, especially in a world that has become vastly more diverse.

My opinion has not changed. I believe in religious freedom, but I do not believe that religious beliefs should be used to justify discrimination and intolerance. (And yes, I recognize that I now will be accused by some of being intolerant of religious freedom. I guess it is inevitable, especially these days, that choices have to be made, or priorities set, between civil rights and religious freedom.)

Where does the line get drawn? What if Phillips’ religious beliefs also opposed mixed-race weddings? Should he be allowed to deny them service? What if he were anti-Jewish? Or anti-Muslim? Can he deny them cakes or cookies of muffins as well?

And what of other people, much in the news lately, who would suggest that their core beliefs include the conviction that certain people - because of their religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds - are of lesser value than they are? Should they only be allowed to do business with caucasian Christians?

Here’s the deal. If you are a baker, bake and sell cakes. If you don’t approve of gay marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same gender. If you don’t approve of transgender people, then don’t go through gender reassignment.

Not everyone agrees with me.

One MNB reader responded:

My thoughts: you either believe in freedom or you don't. No one has the right to the labor of another person.

Private businesses have the right to decline service to whomever they choose for whatever reason they desire.

Customers have the right to boycott whatever company they wish for whatever reason they desire.

That's what freedom is all about.

And, from another reader:

What has changed that a merchant does not have the right to refuse service to anyone?  I worked retail grocery for many years and banned customers for propositioning associates.  It was fine, as long as they were heterosexuals, but I may have violated something if the banned person were gay, lesbian or transgender?  I refused service to rude, crude and violent customers.  I protected my employees’ at the same time protecting my customers’.

I was raised to believe that I didn’t have to shop where the environment was not friendly to me.  I would go somewhere else where I was treated the way I felt was fair.  What is going on in this world today?  Seems some groups have to win at any cost and that standard is not different in our government today.  You must win, don’t compromise, don’t find another baker----wait there is probably not another baker in Lakewood or surrounding Denver, Littleton, Aurora, etc.

Shame on us.

I must admit I have a problem with the notion that for the purposes of your example, you are equating being homosexual or transgender with being crude, violent or otherwise offensive. The latter is bad behavior, which can merit some sort of justified response. The former is simply who these people are.

I don’t think they are the same.

I also think you are engaged in a little victim shaming. Also not fair, in my view.

I believe that the “a merchant has the right to refuse service to anyone” attitude, when applied in the ways being suggested, takes us down a slippery slope in which civil rights and human rights will take a back seat to intolerance disguised as moral virtue.
KC's View: