“We are seeing a pronounced trend away from caffeine as people want more healthy energy”
Caroline MacDougall founded Teeccino – a chicory-based “café” in the 1990s: and saw the pandemic and increased interest in health and wellness drive more people into the alternative coffee category.
With the market now enjoying multiple entries from a wide variety of products, she believes the category is now making its mark in the beverage industry.
From reishi to rooibos
Coffee and caffeine are daily essentials for many: but for others they are associated with unwanted side effects ranging from nervous energy, increased anxiety, digestive problems, headaches and ‘insomnia.
And yet, those who want to give up caffeine still want to have the morning ritual and the pleasure of a cup of coffee – opening the door to drinks that pull on other ingredients to provide a similar experience.
These range from MudWtr (a caffeine-free blend made with rooibos chai, turmeric, cinnamon, ashwagandha, valerian root, passionflower, turkey tail and reishi); Four Sigmatic (mushroom coffee); Rasa (made from adaptogenic herbs); Crio Bru (brewed cocoa) and nujo (quinoa, chicory root and spices with MCT coconut oil).
For Teeccino – as indeed for the brands above – the mission has not just been to offer an alternative but something more with the promise of functional benefits.
Teeccino relies on herbs, botanicals and functional ingredients: it now offers a range of 35 blends including adaptogenic mushrooms and seasonal flavors. MacDougall launched the brand in 1994, building on his background in herbal teas: creating a plant-based beverage with functional health benefits and better gut health. “I chose herbs like chicory root, with its natural prebiotic, inulin, dandelion root with its detoxification abilities, and ramón seeds, a traditional Mayan drink that contains powerful antioxidants.” she told us.
“Over time, I’ve created more roasted blends that help the immune system with adaptogenic herbs, wellness mushrooms, and prebiotic concentrates.”
Down with decaf
While some may view tea and coffee as a natural form of caffeine that is preferable to other forms of energy, caffeine in any form can still be associated with issues such as insomnia. Some people are particularly sensitive to caffeine or want to avoid it due to a health condition.
And decaffeinated is not a solution, according to MacDougall: “Decaf is unsatisfactory for many coffee drinkers because it still contains caffeine and is high in acidity, inferior in flavor, and may contain chemical residues.”
And the caffeine in tea and coffee doesn’t always provide a consistent, predictable boost of energy.
“Maintaining optimal energy levels is certainly one of the concerns of consumers today. However, caffeine does not provide real energy. It is a stimulant that causes a surge in adrenal hormones which may be followed by a crash.
“We are seeing a pronounced trend away from caffeine as people want more healthy energy but not increased stress. They realize the importance of deep sleep and they eat healthier foods, maintain healthy biorhythms and discover that they have more energy without caffeine than with it.
MacDougall points out that this desire for stimulant-free products is a broader trend that isn’t limited to coffee. “A similar trend is happening with soft drinks. People are looking for stable, clean drinks that don’t contain stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.
Another appeal of coffee alternatives, MacDougall says, is that they provide consumers with a coffee-like experience throughout the day: Even the most dedicated coffee drinker will recognize that an espresso before bed n isn’t the best idea.
“Caffeine alternatives offer coffee and tea drinkers a satisfying beverage that can be enjoyed in the afternoon or evening when drinking a caffeinated beverage would disrupt their sleep. Teeccino allows people with caffeine sensitivity or a caffeine-affected health condition to maintain the same brewing ritual while eliminating caffeine from the diet. Coffee drinkers can brew a morning cup of Teeccino like coffee while tea drinkers can brew a Teeccino tea bag or use a teapot with infuser.”
power in numbers
What’s particularly important for the category in 2022 is the number of brands now available that offer a variety of experiences, functional benefits and mindsets. MudWtr offers a caffeine-free blend “to promote a state of calm, so you can get the kind of sleep that will have you waking up and giving your pillow a high-five.” nujo, on the other hand, advertises itself as a “prebiotic superfood”.
“The pandemic has caused a significant increase in demand for coffee alternatives with a diversity of entries in the category offering a wide variety of taste experiences,” said MacDougall.
“Brands such as MudWtr, Four Sigmatic, Rasa, Crio Bru, nuJo and many more have entered the space using various ingredients to deliver robust tasting beverages.
“With people focusing more on their health than ever before, alternatives to coffee are set to grow exponentially, especially as education about the negative effects of caffeine, including anxiety and poor sleep quality due caffeine, attracts more attention. With multiple brands in the category, together we make a huge impact with the help of the media to educate the public about the negative side effects of caffeine and the health benefits of alternatives with caffeine.
Teeccino Functional Ingredients
- Teeccino’s coffee alternatives and herbal teas are made with organic ingredients and non-GMO prebiotics, with no artificial flavors, preservatives, chemicals or stimulants.
- And it’s not just about cutting out the caffeine, it’s also about putting some better stuff in it: “Coffee alternatives like Teeccino include prebiotics and antioxidants, so not only are you eliminating the negative side effects of your daily cup of coffee, but you’re also improving gut health, balance, and boosting your overall immunity.”
- Teeccino’s natural energy is partly the result of Teeccino’s natural potassium content.
- One of Teeccino’s main ingredients, carob pods, contain pinitol which naturally boosts energy by supporting cellular metabolism.
- “The unique plant-based antioxidants in many of Teeccino’s ingredients also help rekindle waning energy by fighting free radicals that can leave us feeling tired,”adds MacDougall.
Although the category is still a niche market, MacDougall argues that price is no longer a deterrent to the category, especially when consumers value functional ingredients and ethical sourcing.
“In terms of price being a barrier to coffee alternatives, we are delighted that Teeccino is priced competitively with many popular coffee brands on the market. Compared to other newer caffeine alternative brands, we offer equally expensive ingredients and declare the number of mg per serving for our adaptogens and prebiotics to show that Teeccino has an effective dose. With three times more herbs per tea bag than other tea brands, Teeccino brings maximum well-being to every cup.
“Our business model, which includes superior sourcing directly from sourcing partners around the world with whom we have worked for over two decades, as well as our own manufacturing facility, allows us to offer Teeccino a competitive price compared to the specialty coffee and tea. Other brands have a different business model that includes a much more expensive pricing model. Our philosophy has always been to keep Teeccino prices competitive so that consumers from all walks of life can afford it. Our mission is to provide our customers premium beverages that promote the pursuit of optimal health and inspire and educate our customers to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”
And while coffee alternatives may not benefit from the same storage space as regular coffee, the rise of e-commerce means this is less important.
“Online search has been particularly important to Teeccino’s growth because new customers can easily find it when looking for a caffeine-free beverage.”