John K. “JD” DeMuria
John K. “JD” DeMuria
Last April John K. “JD” DeMuria was named chairman of the National Coffee Association. The role calls for DeMuria to serve as advocate, educator, and service provider to members of the largest and oldest (1911) coffee association in the US. DeMuria has worked 35 years in coffee, first with Volkart Brothers, in 1982 and later Madison Coffee Co. He returned to Volkart (renamed Volcafe) in 1999 and is now managing director of Volcafe USA in Somerset, NJ.
By Dan Bolton
STiR: How do you view the importance of sustainability to the global coffee industry?
DeMuria: There are many aspects of “sustainability,” and definitions vary from the general to the granular. But, in its broadest sense, sustainability is critical to the present and future of the coffee industry.
At origin, more than 25 million farming families rely on coffee to survive. And typically, they’re in developing nations, where fragile economies and political stability rely on a thriving agricultural sector. And, struggling farms are especially vulnerable to climate change.
The US coffee industry is deeply committed to promoting sustainability initiatives from farm to cup. Among them are sustainable farming initiatives, recycling, composting, environmental stewardship, green business operations, and water conservation.
Together, economic, social and environmental pressures, amplified by climate volatility, increase risks to coffee companies by increasing costs, regulatory issues, and supply disruptions. Also, customer, shareholder and consumer demand calls for businesses to operate in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.
Coffee businesses are facing a complicated and urgent challenge – which is also an opportunity. Making a commitment to sustainability makes us all better. Every organization must create positive changes, leading to the collective result of a sustainable coffee chain – sustainable for the farmers and their families, the land, the environment, the coffee supply, and the integrity of our industry.
At many levels, every organization has the power to create positive change. We must also sustain our commitment and energy to reach that goal.
STiR: How has the conversation about coffee and cancer changed over time?
DeMuria: In June, coffee got a clean bill of health when it comes to cancer. The World Health Organization’s cancer research arm upgraded coffee to a “doesn’t cause cancer” status, reversing its “possibly” rating from 25 years ago.
The International Academy for Research on Cancer (IARC) convened highly credentialed scientists from around the world to examine the current scientific literature – including an “industry observer” who has devoted 35 years to the NCA Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) – an expert NCA committee of toxicologists, epidemiologists, biochemists, and research and development and food safety scientists.
The IARC ruling has significance beyond the rating itself (technically, a “3” rating for “no evidence of a link with cancer,” versus its old “2B” for “possible” link). The ruling is an official acknowledgement by WHO and the worldwide scientific community of 25 years of positive studies on coffee and health from independent laboratories and educational institutions worldwide.
The news was exciting – it confirmed what NCA and the industry has seen unfold during those interim years – a flood of positive studies on coffee and health that show a link between coffee and reduced risk and prevention of cancer. SAG, which monitors all of the scientific literature on coffee, actually began its tenure to defend the industry against old, negative health myths. Over the years, the committee saw the studies become overwhelmingly positive as scientific methodologies got more refined. Many of the old, negative myths had come from “confounding” – which is where factors other than what’s being studied causes the negative outcome, such as smoking, lack of exercise or high body mass index.
In fact, as science improved and coffee’s healthful properties shone through, unencumbered from confounding, NCA launched a major informational campaign – Coffee Delivers! – which pivoted media coverage and public perceptions in line with the literature. The coffee science transformation has been so profound that, in addition to the recent IARC finding, the 2015 US government’s dietary guidelines for Americans for the first time includes coffee, stating that it “can be part of a healthy lifestyle.”
STiR: What has been the impact of cold brew on the industry?
DeMuria: Cold brew has exploded rapidly over the last year, but it’s not an isolated development. It’s part of a long-term trend toward a consumer love affair with new coffee options. With awareness and increasing availability, consumers exhibit an insatiable taste for the full range of new varieties and preparation methods.
NCA market research shows the trend beginning with consumers’ consumption of gourmet coffee beverages – up nearly threefold between 2000 and 2016. The trend appears, too, in a similarly sharp increase in espresso-based beverages, moving from 7% to 18% between 2010 and 2016. And, ownership of single-serve systems, which serve consumers’ appetite for both variety and convenience, has increased from 1% in 2005 to 29% in 2016.
However, there is a potential concern that must be addressed. Since no heat is applied in cold-brew preparation, there are potential food safety issues – particularly if the coffee is then bottled or canned.
As a low-acid beverage, coffee needs special storage and bottling procedures to prevent the growth of pathogens. (High-acid foods cannot sustain the growth of such pathogens.) For eager retailers and entrepreneurs, this reality of chemistry can present a serious problem. NCA is working with an industry leader to develop industry guidelines to ensure cold-brew safety. Stay tuned.
STiR: How does the industry capture the millennial generation?
DeMuria: The millennial generation has made its preferences clear, according to NCA market research. Millennials are shifting their consumption behaviors toward gourmet coffee beverages.
In reviewing NCA’s National Coffee Drinking Trends study, past-day consumption of gourmet coffee beverages between 2008 and 2016 soared from 13% to 36% among 18-24 year olds and from 19% to 41% for those 25-39. For espresso-based beverages alone, the increases were 9% to 22% for the 18-24 group and 8% to 29% for those 25-39.
In fact, these millennial consumers are the chief driver of the overall increase in espresso-based beverages, which has nearly tripled since 2008. This growth signals a promising category shift, outpacing the strong but relatively flat showing for overall consumption.
In fact, all consumption behaviors that skew younger are up in 2016. They include preferences for espresso-based coffee, drinking out-of-home, and a focus on quality rather than quantity. Behaviors that are slowly declining generally skew older and include traditional coffee and at-home consumption. Overall, millennials far outstrip consumption of gourmet coffee beverage varieties among the 40- 59 and 60+ age groups.
At the same time, there is an overall influx of younger consumers into the category. Daily coffee consumption among 18-24 year olds nearly doubled between 2000 and 2016, jumping from 25% to 48%, and among those 25-39 from 42% to 60%. With these data as a guide for strategic product planning, they should bode well for sustained industry growth.
Find the National Coffee Association website at www.ncausa.org