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Starbucks has faced a series of scandals over the past year in China, its second biggest market outside the US. Photo: EPA-EFE

US coffee giant Starbucks faces more backlash in China over expired products

  • A Starbucks outlet in the eastern city of Hangzhou has been fined for stocking expired coffee powder
  • The penalty is the latest setback for the American company in China, its second largest market

American coffee giant Starbucks has sparked backlash online after an outlet in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou was fined for selling expired coffee, the latest controversy for the company in its biggest market outside the United States.

An inspection by the local market regulator in December last year found the shop had four boxes of expired coffee powder on its shelves selling for 69 yuan (US$10) each.

Last month, authorities hit the shop with a 10,000 yuan fine, according to state-back credit score website Credit China.

Staff at the Hangzhou Starbucks said the penalty was for last year’s mistake and there was no problem with the shelf life of new products, according to local media, which began reporting the issue on Monday.


Starbucks customer in China says she found a live cockroach in her coffee

Starbucks customer in China says she found a live cockroach in her coffee

The store could not be immediately reached for comment.

The controversy is the latest setback for Starbucks in China, its second biggest market.

Some customers took to Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, to complain about the company’s recent scandals and its price compared to local competitors like Luckin Coffee.

“Why has Starbucks had so many problems these past few months? Expired products again? Seems like they weren’t fined enough,” one Weibo user said.

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Liu Liyuan, a regular customer at the Hangzhou shop, said despite recent Starbucks scandals, she was “surprised and disappointed” there was a problem at a shop she frequented.

Starbucks has more than 5,400 stores in over 200 Chinese cities, but its business has not performed well in the mainland this year due to a combination of scandals and the pandemic.

In December last year, two Starbucks shops in Wuxi, another city in eastern China, were revealed to be using expired ingredients and swapping expiry date labels on products with new ones.

The two shops forfeited 699,300 yuan in “illegally collected proceeds” and were fined 674,100 yuan.

In February, Starbucks was again in the spotlight after staff at a Chongqing shop chased away on-duty police officers who were having a meal in front of the shop.


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A month later, social media was abuzz with reports from a customer that a live cockroach had been found in their coffee. However, Starbucks China officials said no pest problems were identified after inspection.

Starbucks’ net revenue in China declined 14 per cent for the year ending April 3, according to results for the second quarter of the financial year 2022.

Same-store sales in China declined 23 per cent due to a 20 per cent decline in transactions and a 4 per cent decline in average customer unit price.

Xie Hongyuan, a designer at a Beijing advertising agency said she used to love Starbucks because of its global reputation, the quality of its products and new flavours each quarter, but she was frequenting stores less due to recent scandals.

“After all, other national brands of coffee and instant coffee products are cheaper and there are more flavours to choose from,” she said.