There’s always a lot to do in any given day – or so it seems. Household chores, work deadlines, family demands, financial pressures, to name just a few. So, it’s no surprise that many of us crave an extra dollop of energy or a dash more stamina. Happily, there’s a natural compound that helps supply the little boost we seek.
Caffeine is found in varying amounts in the leaves, seeds and fruit of a variety of plants, including coffee, cocoa, tea, kola and guaranà. Many foods and beverages made from these plants retain the source caffeine, along with hundreds of other natural plant compounds including proteins, carbohydrates, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Coffee, for example, contains about 2,000 compounds, including some potent antioxidants that science says deliver some significant health benefits.
While many look to their morning coffee for the added energy or stamina they seek, caffeine accounts for just 2% of coffee’s makeup and is just one aspect of consumers’ much broader engagement with the beverage. Market research shows that consumers reach for coffee for multiple reasons, even satisfying different needs for different occasions or dayparts. Consumers may look for a simple sip to get the day started, a gourmet coffee beverage at lunch and a high-end single-origin taste experience at dinner. And consumer appetite for an expanding universe of taste, variety, experience and occasion seems to outpace the ever-broadening menu.
This complex, personal and even sensual relationship with coffee makes the consumer interface unique. Even beyond taste and variety, there are cultural and social attributes that contribute to the overall coffee experience. Coffee is craved, savored, shared. It’s a travel companion on morning commutes and business trips. It’s an anchor for social meetings, discussions groups, even first dates.
This larger relationship with coffee explains why consumption habits are distinctive. By nature, coffee is prepared and served, blended to taste, sipped, lingered over, even dallied with over conversation. The coffee experience is much greater than the sum of its 2,000 parts. Even as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, coffee is a lot more than the 2% that is caffeine.
That sets coffee apart from a growing list of foods, beverages and supplements that are geared to delivering caffeine. Coffee’s rich, complex and unsweetened taste does not lend itself to quick or rapid consumption. Coffee is rarely, if ever, “chugged,” but sipped over time by nature of its flavor as well as established cultural and social habits. Energy drinks, on the other hand, are made available as a slightly chilled beverage in small volume containers, designed for quick and easy ingestion. Unlike intrinsic caffeine in small proportions in coffee, caffeine, plus other minerals and sugar, are added to energy drinks to provide the intended “boost” consumers seek in the product.
Also, unlike energy drinks and supplements, coffee drinking is inherently self-limiting. The stimulating effects of coffee’s caffeine become evident to coffee consumers gradually, and continued consumption wanes naturally when tolerance levels are felt. Energy-drink consumers, on the other hand, are vulnerable to exceeding caffeine tolerance levels before natural physical effects are perceived. Also, coffee consumers are highly familiar with modulating caffeine intake for individual comfort levels. These distinctions are fundamental to consumer awareness and staying within one’s caffeine comfort zone
Coffee is a very complex beverage that delivers a wealth of natural benefits. That morning boost is one of them, but just a small part of a much larger story with strong roots in its chemical makeup, physical properties, consumer engagement and cultural accoutrements. Coffee is many things to many people, far outweighing the 2% that is caffeine. It’s two thousand compounds, blended naturally into a beverage that is much more than the sum of its parts.