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Marketing alternatives to your coffee-drinking customers

By Caroline MacDougall, CEO and founder of Teeccino Caffé

Though coffee is the most popular hot brewed drink in America, many people can’t tolerate it. Increasingly, customers who have been steady coffee buyers are advised by a healthcare practitioner to cut down on caffeine or acidity because, as people age, their tolerance for both these characteristics of coffee changes.

It’s a sad day when it dawns on a true coffee lover that their coffee-drinking days are numbered. You can make that day brighter if you introduce them to coffee alternatives that brew and taste like coffee.

The coffee alternative category grew nearly 20 percent in 2008 according to data tracked by SPINS. Since Kraft Foods discontinued selling Postum in the fall of 2007, many coffee-alternative customers who used to shop at mainstream supermarkets have migrated to natural food stores.

Caffeine Sensitivity Syndrome (CSS) affects people whose adrenal glands become sensitized to caffeine. Some people know from the very first cup of coffee that their bodies can’t handle caffeine. Others discover as they hit their forties that they can’t metabolize caffeine like they used to in their go-go twenties.

CSS causes classic symptoms like the jitters that are commonly associated with coffee drinking. However, CSS can also cause much more disturbing symptoms like insomnia, irritability, anxiety, rapid speech, ringing in the ears, and rapid heartbeat. When a customer realizes that coffee drinking is causing these kinds of symptoms, they are motivated to reduce their caffeine consumption.

Acidity in coffee—including decaf, which is made from even more acidic coffee beans—affects many people with digestive tract disorders. If one of your customers comes in complaining of heartburn caused by acid reflux or has been diagnosed with the more serious GERD, your coffee alternative brands marketed as “herbal coffee” made from herbs, grains, fruits and nuts may be just the answer for them.

People with irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel conditions also have to stay away from acidity and caffeine, but they can enjoy coffee alternatives. Even your customers with inflammatory bladder conditions such as interstitial cystitis, can drink coffee alternatives. Why? There are nutrients in herbal coffee that help all these kinds of conditions.

Roasted chicory root, a common ingredient in herbal coffees, contains inulin, a soluble fiber that is a prebiotic. Inulin is food for the beneficial microflora in the intestines. A diet rich in inulin helps support a healthy population of these essential digestive bacteria in the intestinal tract. Though small amounts of inulin are in many foods including wheat and garlic, large amounts are only found in tubers like chicory and Jerusalem artichokes that many people don’t eat regularly. Drinking a cup of a chicory-based herbal coffee can provide a healthy quantity of inulin that helps support a regime of probiotics to establish good digestive health.

Many of the ingredients used in herbal coffees, such as carob pods, roasted ramon nuts, dates and figs, which add sweetness, are also high in potassium. Potassium is an essential electrolyte, alkaline mineral used by the body to reduce metabolic acidity and help relieve fatigue. This is why many sports drinks have added potassium to help athletes recover after a workout. The potassium in herbal coffees naturally extracts into the cup during brewing, making it immediately bio-available and providing a natural energy lift. With both inulin and potassium in the brewed liquid, a cup of herbal coffee is a great way to boost alkalinity and rebuild digestive health.

By offering a good selection of both brewable and instant coffee alternatives, your customers will find flavor satisfaction along with health benefits that will keep them shopping at your store. After all, that’s what the natural food business is all about—offering healthy alternatives to our customers!

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