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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Take a Number: Virtual Coffeehouse Visits Soaring

It’s been six months since NCA launched its new online coffeehouse concept. And, the customers are rushing in.

They come to immerse themselves in the spirit, ambiance and activities of the coffee experience and lifestyle. They engage in the many compelling elements that come with that cup of coffee – topical discussions, coffee trivia, recipes, original music, health benefits, cause-related ideas, “steals and deals” on coffee-themed items, contests and quizzes, and more. It’s an online platform for enjoying all of the life-enhancing qualities of coffee – the overall theme underlying the concept and echoed in the coffeehouse experience.

Reaching the coffeehouse is easy – it’s at MyVirtualCoffeehouse.com. Or, engage via Facebook (facebook.com/iVirtualCoffee) or Twitter (twitter.com/iVirtualCoffee). You’ll be in good company, as visitors, likes and followers are increasing by leaps and bounds.

Unique visitors to MyVirtualCoffeehouse are approaching the 100,000 mark, up over 1000% in just three months. Facebook “likes” have increased to nearly 12,000, up more than 75% since April. Twitter followers have surpassed 50,000, doubling just during the summer months.

On MyVirtualCoffeehouse.com, you’ll find research on coffee and health, coffee-based recipes, games and contests, information on sustainable coffee production, quirky and useful coffee-themed items at good prices, coffee facts and folklore, and original music licensed specifically for the site. At the MyVirtualCoffeehouse Facebook and Twitter pages, you’ll find a wide variety of fun and intriguing images, memes, statistics, games, quizzes, trivia and videos, as well as fact-filled information on research on coffee and health, how coffee is grown, harvested and processed, brewing methods and techniques, coffee lore and legend, and other news and feature items.

Among the special features driven by social media is the recently completed nationwide “Everything Tastes Better with Coffee” recipe contest. The winning entries in each of the four categories are: Appetizer – Calypso Cashew Clusters; Entrée – Coffee Marinated London Broil; Dessert – Triple Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake Swirl Brownie Bites; and Beverage – Coffee Viennese. To get the recipes, visit www.MyVirtualCoffeehouse.com.

The latest feature is the #CoffeeGrad program, which is being conducted on Twitter. The program targets university students, giving them a chance to win prizes such as a gift card or textbook when they “follow” MyVirtualCoffeehouse on Twitter or post a “tweet” using the #iCoffeeGrad hashtag.

Stay tuned for more features currently in the works. Among them is the MyVirtualCoffeehouse eCookbook, which will collect winners’ and finalists’ recipes from the contest, and a coffeehouse-themed app for your iPhone or Android tablet.

As the numbers of engaged consumers soar, so will the interactivity and shared value of NCA’s online coffeehouse experience. So, be one of the growing crowd – log on, like and follow the MyVirtualCoffeehouse channels. It seems like the rush is on, so hurry up and join in.

Here’s how to do sot:

• Visit www.MyVirtualCoffeehouse.com
• “Like” the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/iVirtualCoffee
• “Follow” on Twitter: www.twitter.com/VirtualCoffee

See you in the coffeehouse!

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The Science Has It

Scientific studies on coffee and health emerge daily from laboratories around the world. It’s typically good news, with more scientifically confirmed associations between coffee and disease-fighting properties. It’s a big switch from ten or fifteen years ago, when negative studies continued to feed the old myths that have long been disproven.

What changed, simply put, is that science got better. Refined methodologies enabled scientists to account for and separate out the effect of other risk factors, like smoking and poor cardiovascular fitness. As coffee was isolated out of the mix, it became increasingly clear that the myths had come from other sources, or “confounding factors” as they’re called.

But even scientists are not perfect, it seems, and old habits can creep in. One recent study appears to have gone retro, without the cachet the term has in style and fashion. The study by scientists at the University of South Carolina, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, not only did not separate out typical confounding factors, but acknowledged their prevalence in the population they studied. In another departure from standard research protocol, they presented findings limited to a subgroup that was not previously identified for study. Instead, a subgroup was subsequently carved out because data, as applied to that group alone, could yield a reportable finding.

Out of Step
The study presented a finding of a 21% increase in mortality among subjects under 55 years of age who drank more than 28 cups of coffee a week. The research team confirmed, however, that the subjects were overweight or obese, had lower cardiovascular fitness levels, and tended to smoke. The scientists in fact stated that those who consumed higher amounts of coffee were more likely to smoke and had lower levels of cardiovascular fitness. They also state in the paper that, “The only marginally significant association of coffee consumption and all-cause mortality was observed in [overweight/obese] men … who consumed more than 28 cups of coffee per week.” No other group of coffee drinkers was at increased risk. The authors also state that “Smoking is likely to be one of the most important factors to cause residual confounding in this investigation.”

Not surprisingly, these findings are totally out of step with the vast preponderance of the scientific literature. Rather, the prevailing body of scientific evidence affirms that coffee is associated with a lower risk of dying at a young age. The largest-ever analysis of coffee and mortality found a clear connection between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of dying from any cause. The findings, published just last year, spanned all consumption levels among 400,000 women and men. Compared to men who drank no coffee, those who drank two to three cups of coffee each day has a 10% mortality reduction, while those who drank four to five cups daily had a 12% mortality reduction. In women, the mortality reductions were even more prominent, with those who drank two to three cups of coffee each day having a 13% mortality reduction, while those who drank four to five cups daily had a 16% mortality reduction. Such favorable mortality risk reductions held across all causes, as well as for specific causes including heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke and diabetes.

Additionally, a very recent meta-analysis assessed 23 independent studies and concluded that coffee drinkers are at a lower risk of mortality from all causes than people who do not drink coffee. A meta-analysis is a study that compiles data and subjects from multiple studies, and applies a fresh analysis to yield a wider and more comprehensive examination of the findings.

Media Scepticism
Interestingly, the news media covered the story with more than ample scepticism. Fifteen years ago, a study like this one would likely have sparked massive, negative media attention that drew upon the generally negative posture taken toward coffee and health. Instead, the tenor of the current coverage was notably even-handed, if not leaning positive. Typically, reporters zeroed in on the study’s methodological flaws and then segued quickly into the now well established findings linking coffee with significant health benefits.

Clearly, attitudes have changed along with scientific methodologies. What could have been a major media crisis around a scathing critique of coffee and caffeine instead turned out to be a nonstarter. Apparently, years of positive news about coffee and health had cultivated a widely accepted positive view of coffee.

Perhaps due to efforts set in motion by NCA with its 2003-07 Coffee Delivers! campaign, which took the emerging good news out of scientific journals and into public hands, audiences now appear to err on the side of coffee’s health benefits rather than proposed risks. Audiences appear now to view a negative study almost as a suspicious outlier rather than a mainsteam confirmation of bad news. The knee-jerk reaction appears now to support coffee rather than attack. Clearly, the ayes have it. And so does science.

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Caffeine on the Radar

Caffeine is on the radar at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a growing number of new products with added caffeine are hitting supermarket shelves. That’s on top of a wide array of energy drinks and shots that have already expanded the availability of caffeine and changed habits of use.

As a first step to exploring the implications, the FDA asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences to hold a public workshop on the science and usage of caffeine. At the workshop last week in Washington, the presentations and discussions offered a deeper look into the issues as well as the FDA’s focus.

About 25 physicians and scientists gave detailed presentations touching upon the scope of caffeine intake, patterns and outcomes of use, physical and behavioral effects, safe exposure levels, and interactions with other compounds in energy products. Public participation was welcome, and several physicians, scientists and industry representatives offered questions and comments.

It quickly became clear that the meeting’s focus was on caffeine found in “unexpected sources,” such as the new foods to which caffeine is being added, which include jelly beans, sunflower seeds, marshmallows, pancake syrup, and even water. The variety was described by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in her introductory remarks as “mind boggling,” and she noted that energy drinks have “jolted the marketplace.” She also said that the FDA’s inquiry was not about caffeine in coffee and tea, but rather about “new foods where caffeine is added.” She also shared a particular concern for “vulnerable populations,” particularly children and adolescents.

The presenters offered detailed data and analyses of the various aspects of caffeine consumption being explored during the two-day meeting at the National Academy of Sciences headquarters near the National Mall. Among the topics covered were caffeine consumption levels and patterns, the pathways and impacts of caffeine on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, data about emergency room visits triggered by energy product consumption by young consumers, potential interactions with other energy drink components such as taurine and carnitine, and areas where additional research could sharpen understanding.

Moving forward, the IOM will present the FDA with a transcript, or “proceedings,” ” of the meeting. The FDA had charged the IOM with conducting the workshop and delivering detailed proceedings without policy recommendations. The FDA will include the proceedings in deliberations on its caffeine initiative that could result in a new “guidance” document on caffeine. In light of evident Congressional pressure related to untoward outcomes from youth consumption of caffeine from new sources, the FDA is likely to act quickly this autumn.

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Cooking with Coffee – A Winning Idea

Do you cook with coffee? Many people do. And, four of them have risen to the top of their game as winners of the MyVirtualCoffeehouse “Everything Tastes Better with Coffee” recipe contest.

Taking the top spot in each of four categories, the winners of the nationwide contest hail from California, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Visitors to MyVirtualCoffeehouse.com selected the winners by popular vote from among four finalists in each of the categories: Appetizer, Entrée, Dessert and Beverage.

Congratulations to the winners and their award-winning recipes:

Roxanne Chan, Albany, California: Calypso Cashew Clusters

Pat Dazis, Charlotte, North Carolina: Coffee Marinated London Broil

Amber Killmon, Cincoteagure, Virginia: Triple Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake Swirl Brownie Bites

Mary Leverette, Columbia, South Carolina: Coffee Viennese

Winners receive a cash award of $250, a real coffee plant, recognition on the MyVirtualCoffeehouse website and national publicity as a “Coffee MVC (Most Valuable Chef). These winnings come on top of prizes they received as finalists, which included 10 pounds of a specially blended coffee and a special-edition coffee mug. Four finalists were selected in each category by an expert panel, followed by the open voting for the four winners. Over 100 contestants submitted qualifying recipes to vie for these special awards.

Nationwide Contest
To be eligible, recipes needed to feature at least one tablespoon of ground or instant coffee or one-half cup of brewed. Entrants could submit any number of recipes in each of the four categories, although they could not enter any individual recipe in more than one category.

As these recipes demonstrate, coffee can be a great flavor addition in both sweet and savory food and beverage recipes. Used in a rub, sauce, secret flavoring or as a main ingredient, and whether added by pouring, marinating, blending, folding or sprinkling on, coffee was front and center as contestants showed just how creative cooks can be with.

To see the winning recipes visit www.MyVirtualCoffeehouse.com and click on the link for the contest.

 

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