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Information or Knowledge?

Smart business people keep up with best practices. It’s a competitive must and emblem of personal and professional pride. There’s always something new to learn. And, increasingly, there are more and more ways to seek it out. It’s a long and growing list that includes conferences, online courses, e-seminars, podcasts, and more. Just check your email inbox, and you’ll probably find more than one a day.

But information alone is not always enough. Facts, figures and presentations can make you more informed. But, information doesn’t always become knowledge. Often, it’s not what you know that counts, but how you put it to work to make changes, reach goals and solve problems.

That’s the premise behind the NCA Coffee Summit, which was held last week in Philadelphia. It’s a hybrid learning platform that combines traditional education with collaborative thinking and “open space” engagement. The facts and figures are filtered through the prism of the expertise and experience of fellow professionals. The output is knowledge that’s ready to put into play to solve nettling problems you face each day.

Say you’re a small café owner who wants to deliver a new coffee experience to customers. Or, a micro-roaster who wants to promote sustainable coffees. Or perhaps a maker of coffee-related accessories who needs to keep on top of consumption patterns and brewing trends?

The NCA Coffee Summit is designed to bring together diverse professionals from up and down the coffee “supply chain.” Bringing a spectrum of perspective to each discussion, participants mold raw information into workable strategies to solve real-time business challenges. In this way, participants can attack individual challenges from the different angles that come from their different business roles and functions. In turn, participants can go home with strategies and solutions that have been put through the business filter of professionals who know how things work.

This year’s Summit teed up three topics with special currency – sustainability, the single-serve format and risk management. Four, short presentations on the topics were followed by opportunities to interact with the expert speakers, as well as brainstorm on the topic with other attendees.

The Summit also featured a collaborative Learning Exchange. Three broad questions were raised by the professional facilitator to spark thinking and discussion on the topics. Each table of 10 participants captured their collective thoughts on flip charts, which were posted publicly for all to review. After each question, participants were shuffled to maximize attendee interaction.

Another important element of the Summit’s design is “open space” discussion. Two sessions were held, during which participants were encouraged to pose their own “big questions” to engage others in problem-solving discussions. The sessions are designed to cull the expertise and perspective of colleagues who share your concerns, and put them into play to tackle your problems. Often, insights emerge when issues are approached from the viewpoints of those who fill different roles along the supply chain.

Interactions among the participants were dynamic and fruitful. The group generated over 100 pages of flip-chart notes, which will be shared with all attendees as well as transcribed into a report. Speaker presentations will also be made available.

Clearly, the NCA Coffee Summit is a dynamic PD choice for coffee professionals in all functions and sectors. It’s a chance to explore industry issues, get your big questions answered, and go home with some practical solutions.

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New Report: Coffee Cuts Endometrial Cancer Risk

A newly released scientific report links coffee with a protective effect against endometrial cancer. The report, published this week by the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund International, says that coffee drinking is one of several lifestyle and diet changes that can help women prevent the disease, also known as uterine cancer.

Analyzing results from eight independent scientific studies, the report concludes that one cup of coffee per day is associated with a 7% decreased risk of developing the disease. All of the analyzed studies found a decreased risk for higher versus lower levels of coffee consumption.

The report also noted the findings of two other published meta-analyses that found a statistically significant decreased risk of endometrial cancer for the highest coffee drinkers as compared with the lowest. A meta-analysis is a study that incorporates data from multiple pieces of research to amplify the scope and statistical significance of the findings.

The analysis also examined several pieces of research on decaffeinated coffee. The cumulative results showed that there was an overall 8% decreased risk of endometrial cancer per one cup per day.

According to the AARP Blog, endometrial cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, and the 49,600 annual cases outnumber ovarian and cervical cancers combined. Endometrial cancer primarily affects women over age 60, and claims 8,000 lives each year.

The report also discussed how coffee might deliver the protection they found. Several “mechanisms” were suggested, including the work of several of the chemical compounds found in coffee. Among them is chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to have strong antioxidant properties that can prevent damage to DNA, as well as improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit sugar uptake in the intestines.

The impact on sugar uptake is significant because excess insulin has been associated with the growth of endometrial cancer cells. Both regular and decaffeinated coffees have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and so reduce insulin levels in the blood. Other, indirect mechanisms were also discussed, such as coffee’s suppression of a hormone that elevates estrogen levels in the blood.

Other Factors
Other factors cited in the report for reducing the risk of endometrial cancer include regular exercise, weight maintenance and avoidance of sugary drinks. The report notes that there is a strong link between obesity and cancer that is especially strong for endometrial cancer. Dr. Elisa Bandera, a Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey epidemiologist who helped lead the study, noted in an NBC News interview that obese women have two to three times the rate of endometrial cancer.

The report says that three out of every five cases of the disease could be prevented if women kept a healthy weight, got at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, avoided sugary drinks and processed snack foods, and drank coffee.

The authors of the report – World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research, Continuous Update Project Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Endometrial Cancer, 2013 – state as their conclusion that “There is a substantial amount of epidemiological evidence, which is consistent, and there is a dose-response relationship. There is evidence for biological plausibility. Coffee probably protects against endometrial cancer.”

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Coffee v. Kidney Stones

Scientists have confirmed an association between coffee and a reduced risk of kidney stones. Examining the effects of liquids on kidney stone development, they found varying impacts among different liquids. Integrating results from three large clinical trials, their analysis showed that some sodas and punch appeared to increase the risk, while coffee and wine reduced it.

The coffee effect appears to increase with consumption. Participants who drank one or more cups of coffee a day had a 26% lower risk of developing kidney stones, as compared with those who drank coffee less than once a week. The protection was incremental, with relative risk reduction increasing with consumption levels: 3% for those who consumed coffee once a week, 6% for those who drank two to four times a week, and 16% for five to six times a week.

The effect remained steady for decaffeinated coffee as well. Decaf drinkers who consumed one or more cups of coffee per day showed a 16% lower risk compared with those who drank it less than once a week. While risk levels were higher by 3% for those who drank decaf just once a week, reductions were significant for other consumption levels: 8% for two to four times a week, and 23% for five to six times a week. Although caffeine is known to reduce kidney stone risk, the decaf results suggest that there are independent sources within coffee that contribute to the risk reduction.

For comparison, red and white wine also appears to deliver significant protection, culminating with a 31% reduction in daily consumers for red wine and 33% for white. Beer and liquor also exhibited protection levels for daily consumption at 41% and 12%, respectively, although protection levels for less frequent consumption did not increase incrementally with levels. Sugar-sweetened colas and non-colas did not fare as well, with daily consumption yielding respective 23% and 33% risk increases. Artificially sweetened colas and non-colas did better, with a risk reduction in colas of 9% albeit only for daily consumption, and for non-colas risk changes ranging from a 2% reduction to a 17% increase, depending on frequency. The researchers point to the fructose in the sugared beverages as the possible cause of the increased risk levels.

The study was conducted by Drs. Pietro Manuel Ferraro, Eric N. Taylor, Giovanni Gambaro and Gary C. Curhan. Subjects totaled 194,095 followed over a period of time ranging from eight to 13 years. That puts the combined reach of the study, integrating subjects and time followed, at 2,643,708 person-years. The study was published on May 15 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

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Federal Food Agency Tests Waters on FSMA Food Safety Plans

The wheels of government often grind slowly, but can still deliver a hefty pinch. After a yearlong delay, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued draft regulations that put significant new responsibilities on manufacturers for ensuring food safety.

Last week, the FDA issued a “proposed rule” to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provision for “preventive controls,” essentially a series of backstops against potential contamination. Generally speaking, the 680-page document is the regulatory equivalent of an operating manual, spelling out proposed regulations implementing the statutory provision.

FSMA, which became law in January 2012, introduced a requirement that manufacturers of food for consumption in the U.S. develop a formal safety plan to prevent foodborne illness. However, just what compliance would entail is left up to the FDA to craft in accompanying regulations. The law provided for an automatic trigger of the preventive controls provision on July 3, 2012, but without the rules in place, the FDA had adopted temporary “discretionary enforcement” of the provision.

The newly issued proposed rule is now open to a 120-day public comment period. Following receipt and analysis of comments, the FDA will issue a final rule. Thereafter, the Agency says, it would make the preventive controls provision effective after one year. Small business are expected to be given additional time.

NCA will study the proposed rule carefully and consider filing formal comments if appropriate to advocate for the best interests of the U.S. coffee industry. NCA has already filed comments with the FDA on prior FSMA rulemaking proposals.

Preventive Controls
The FSMA preventive controls provision will require domestic or foreign manufacturers of food for sale in the United States to develop a formal plan to prevent foodborne illness. The provision also requires food makers to conduct analyses of reasonably foreseeable hazards, including acts of terrorism, and deploy preventive controls to minimize those risks. The proposed rule also requires food makers to put plans in place for correcting any problems that may spring up.

Preventive controls are one of many new provisions deployed by FSMA to improve U.S. food safety. FSMA itself signaled a fundamental shift in the nation’s approach to creating a safer food supply. Rather than the prior approach of remediation of problems after they arise, FSMA adopts an approach focused on prevention. The statute also emphasizes accountability for domestic and foreign food producers throughout the supply chain.

The first major revamp of federal food safety laws since the 1930s, FSMA grants new powers to the FDA and imposes added responsibilities for food safety throughout the supply chain. Passed by Congress in late 2010, the statute also calls for more frequent inspections of domestic and foreign facilities, re-registration by food companies, presumptive liability that companies that pack, receive or hold foods “knew or should have known” of problem conditions, a reduced threshold for administrative detention of food, and protections for whistleblowers.

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The NCA Scientific Affairs Program

Remember when coffee was buffeted by myths about health risks? You got negative messages from your colleagues, doctor, family and maybe even the little voice in your own head.

Well, the weight’s now off our shoulders. The word is out, and it’s loud and clear. Scientists have found that coffee is a healthy beverage. The product of a natural plant, it’s no real surprise that coffee packs a salubrious punch, with thousands of antioxidants and other natural compounds.

The good news about coffee and health is everywhere. It’s practically part of coffee’s cultural DNA. By now, we’ve all heard about how coffee helps protect against diabetes, liver damage, colon cancer, gallstones, and even cognitive decline. We now know about coffee’s ergogenic properties, helping us run faster, jump higher, and do so with less leg pain.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround. What happened, you might wonder. How did the new findings emerge? Who found them and teed them up for attention? What explains the shift in conclusions? Who spread the good word?

Scientific Program
For the answers, look no further than the NCA Scientific Affairs Program. NCA is the industry’s eyes, ears and minds when it comes to scientific inquiry on coffee and health. Its program is the only one of its kind, serving the U.S. industry with unique expertise and authority.

Through a comprehensive program, NCA keeps a daily finger on the pulse of scientific inquiry about coffee and health. The program spans all aspects of coffee science and its implications for consumers and the industry:
• Tracking and analysis of research on coffee and caffeine
• Science-based perspective on food safety legislation and regulation
• Expertise in food chemistry, toxicology and epidemiology, along with implications for physiological and environmental exposure
• Acknowledged influence in worldwide scientific circles
• Active collaboration with leading food and environmental safety organizations.

At the program’s core is a dedicated committee of leading industry scientists with decades of expertise in epidemiology, toxicology, biochemistry, medicine, food quality/safety and quality assurance. In fact, the committee is one of just a few, highly respected organizations devoted to the study of coffee science around the world.

Through the committee and other research channels, NCA tracks, flags and analyzes every reputable study done on coffee, caffeine and health worldwide. Through scientific journals, online search, and “institutional memory” compiled over many years, NCA has amassed the industry’s most comprehensive database of scientific literature on coffee and health.

Regulatory Issues
Another program function is applying scientific knowledge and perspective to navigating science-based business, legal, regulatory and legislative issues. NCA regularly surveys and analyzes regulatory constructs built around food safety, environmental exposures, and ingredient and nutritional information. Applying scientific expertise to the parameters and applications of government regulations is key to the industry’s understanding, compliance and protection.

Science, in fact, is taking on larger significance in legal and regulatory challenges and is increasingly critical to the industry’s protection. In California, notably, coffee manufacturers and retailers have been sued under the state’s Proposition 65 on the basis of acrylamide, which is formed naturally in the cooking process, just as it is in breads, cereals, potato chips and other foods.

And, the challenges will not be limited to California. As food analytics get more and more sophisticated, scientists and regulators are “chasing zero” to find miniscule traces of chemical compounds in foods. Already, acrylamide and other heat-formed substances are on the radar of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), among other governmental entities and research institutions.

Beyond monitoring and analysis, NCA also invites worthy proposals for original research. Generally, accepted studies address important avenues of research into the health effects of coffee and caffeine and are later published in prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals. Over the years, NCA has funded nearly 80 original investigations or scientific reviews on coffee and health issues.

NCA has also put its research and analysis to good use by communicating the good news about coffee and health. Dating back to around 2000, the science coming out of labs around the world began to turn positive. In simple terms, scientific methodologies were getting better, and results reflected the elimination of “confounding factors” – bad habits like smoking and unhealthy diets – that got lumped together in the findings that had created the negative coffee myths. Once coffee was isolated out of the mix, the tide quickly turned.

NCA noticed that something interesting was going on. But the good news would remain buried in scientific journals that few professionals, no less consumers, would ever read. So, NCA brought the scientific committee and the public relations committee together, and the result was the highly successful Coffee Delivers! communications campaign to get the word out about the newly found health benefits. A billion media impressions later, the good news became today’s common knowledge.

For more information about NCA’s Scientific Affairs Program, keep an eye out for a new, dedicated section on that will focus on NCA’s scientific affairs activities. Additional information about legislative and regulatory issues are currently available in dedicated website sections. If you have questions, you can also contact NCA communications director Joe DeRupo at

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Hispanic-Americans and Coffee

Hispanic-Americans make up 16.1% of the U.S. population, according to the 2012 U.S. Census, and their numbers are expected to grow to 24.4% by 2050. That’s a current total of 50 million Americans, an increase of 43% since 2000. By any measure, that’s a huge market of consumers whose tastes impact product strategies and bottom lines.

And, they drink coffee. In fact, more so than other Americans. New research reveals that Hispanics outpace non-Hispanics in overall consumption, as well as taste for premium coffee varieties. In Ethnicity and Coffee, an NCA report in the National Coffee Drinking Trends market research series, data show that 74% of Hispanic-Americans drink coffee daily – that’s a full 12 percentage points ahead of non-Hispanics. On a less frequent basis, they also drink more – 80% versus 72% for past-week consumption and 84% versus 77% for past-year.

The report also reveals that Hispanic-Americans favor premium coffees. Forty-six percent drink gourmet coffee beverages daily versus 29% of non-Hispanics. Thirty-two percent drink espresso, compared with 11% for non-Hispanics.

The higher consumption levels also play out across age groups. Among Hispanic-Americans 18-24 years of age, 57% drink coffee daily versus 48% for non-Hispanics. Daily consumption figures among Hispanic-Americans in other age brackets are: 74% versus 60% among 25-39 year olds; 78% versus 63% for those 40-59; and 87% versus 70% for the 60+ group.

Within the Hispanic-American population, too, there are fascinating behavioral variations based on the level of acculturation. Consumption came in even stronger among the sub-group who identified as Spanish-speaking rather than as bilingual or English-dominant. Among the Spanish-dominant group, 80% drink coffee daily compared with 77% among the bilingual group and 63% of those identifying as English-speaking.

There were differences in gourmet coffee consumption behaviors as well. Espresso-based beverages were consumed at least once per week by 57% of the Spanish-dominant group, compared with 55% for the bilingual group and 35% for the English-dominant. Cappuccino came in, respectively, at 38%, 34% and 16%, and espresso at 38%, 31% and 16%.

To achieve these results, the study used a custom, highly targeted methodology that included:

* Conducting the survey in both English and Spanish – to give respondents the chance to express themselves as they felt most comfortable and eliminate any loss of subtle meaning differences between the languages.

*Matching the research sample to the Hispanic-American population on the basis of age, gender and region, so as to mirror accurately the Hispanic-American market.

*Seeking out a representative sampling of language usage in the home to achieve an accurate mix among acculturation levels.

*Sourcing respondents from research panels managed in both English and Spanish, ensuring that they are relevant to consumers across all ranges of acculturation.

Ethnicity and Coffee is about to be published, and will be available via

A Matter of Health

Consumers are buffeted daily with confusing, if not conflicting, information about the foods and beverages they consume. Yesterday, whole eggs raised your cholesterol levels, while today they’re a source of healthy, non-saturated fat. Once it was thought that wine could damage your liver, while now it’s widely recognized as a cardiovascular boon.

Coffee is no stranger to the undulations of health messaging. Remember the stubborn old myths – like coffee stunts your growth, makes you dehydrated or is bad for your heart? Not only has science proven them wrong, but coffee now has a good and genuine story to tell.

What happened? Over the years, science got better and coffee finally got a fair hearing. In short, coffee got out from under the weighty burden of conflation.  That is, earlier methodologies couldn’t unlink coffee from other, contributing factors like smoking and poor diet. As more sophisticated techniques took hold, though, coffee got its own voice amid the scientific roar.

That voice, as it turns out, is loud and clear. Study after study has since linked coffee with an array of health benefits, ranging from liver function to cognitive performance. In fact, the expanding library of scientific evidence made the New York Times and U.S. News and World Report recognize coffee as a healthy food.

Among the most well-established associations between coffee and health are a reduced risk of Type II diabetes, protection against liver cancer, cirrhosis and other damage, and a preventive effect against cancers of the colon, breast, uterus  and other sites. Other studies have associated coffee with lower risk for gallstones, heart failure, stroke, Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Coffee also hydrates as well as water. Coffee/caffeine has also been shown to sharpen mental acuity, boost physical performance and endurance, and reduce exercise-related pain. A recent Harvard University study found that coffee enhances longevity.

These findings echo significant progress in scientific inquiry and its methods. However, on some level, the benefits should not come as a surprise. Coffee is, after all, one of the most complex foods known to mankind.  The coffee we drink contains about 1200 compounds – about 800 occurring naturally in the green bean and another 400 created in the roasting process.  The closest runner-up is red wine, coming in at 450 chemical components.

Many of coffee’s compounds exhibit strong antioxidant properties as well as specific impacts on important physical systems. Chlorogenic acid, for instance, appears to play a significant role in the body’s sugar uptake mechanism and may be the source of coffee’s protective effect against diabetes. Methylpyridinium is a strong antioxidant that appears to protect the colon against cancer. Polyphenols, one of the major classes of antioxidant compounds, are found in abundance in coffee. In fact, coffee accounts for 60% of these antioxidants in the American diet.

The National Coffee Association regularly tracks research on coffee, caffeine and health, with a specialized committee of scientists who monitor and review all literature on an ongoing basis. For more information, visit

NCA Kicks off Blog – Welcome to SERVING COFFEE

Welcome to the National Coffee Association new blog, Serving Coffee.

Describing coffee, Gertrude Stein once said “It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening.” The world’s most popular beverage, coffee does have a lot going on. 

Grown in 60 countries, it provides a livelihood for 25 million farming families. One of the world’s most traded commodities, it generates exports estimated at $16.6 billion and drives a retail market valued at $175.7 billion. A complex agricultural product with over 1,000 component substances, it’s a powerhouse of health benefits only recently uncovered. A vehicle for social interaction, it’s become a centerpiece of diverse cultural traditions around the world.  

As such, coffee commands broad global attention on many fronts – including agriculture, economics, diplomacy, culture, health and trade. With that attention come a host of diverse issues – supply and demand, quality and sustainability, tariffs and treaties, government regulation and legal challenges, market research, and science and health, to name a few. 

Clearly, it’s no small task to navigate this complex world that revolves around coffee.  Yet, it’s also a diverse, challenging and fascinating endeavor. As the foremost trade association for the U.S. industry, that’s what the National Coffee Association tackles every day. On these pages, NCA plans regularly to share some of the knowledge and experience base it has developed in support of its core purpose – to champion the well-being of the U.S. coffee industry within the context of the world coffee community.

 So, you can look to Serving Coffee to deliver a wide variety of information about the U.S. coffee industry – including news, trends, issues, statistics, legislative and regulatory issues, legal developments, and expert analysis and commentary. You’ll also find details on NCA’s ongoing efforts to serve all segments of the industry. That means a comprehensive review of the day-to-day challenges that face all sectors of the industry.

 And, today’s industry does face many challenges. However, it also enjoys some big opportunities. Volatile markets, regulatory uncertainties, shifting demographics, California legal affronts, and even climate change make it a tough time to be in the coffee business. However, strong consumer demand, ever more discerning tastes, growing awareness of quality and variety options, and single-cup and other brewing innovations make coffee purveyance a compelling endeavor.

 So, stay tuned for timely and topical information that will help you, as consumer or coffee purveyor, to understand, appreciate and savor the both the beverage and the world of coffee.



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