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Issue Date: Vol. 56, No. 2, February 2016, Posted On: 4/16/2016


Operators Should Pay Attention To Single-Cup Capsule Bans


by Kevin Daw
TAGS: Vending Times columnist, vending, office coffee service, OCS editorial, coffee industry, coffee market, coffee roasting, Heritage Coffee, Kevin Daw, Hamburg coffee capsule ban, K-Cup ban, single-cup coffee environment impact

This month's issue is headed to the National Automatic Merchandising Association's OneShow in Chicago. NAMA has solidified itself as the marque trade association for vending and coffee, and has recently added water to the mix. The association has done a wonderful job in melding these business "cousins" in a way that allows for the varied interests to maintain an identity and still have a central gathering point for themselves, and as a whole, on an annual basis.

As much as I love coming to NAMA's show and revisiting some great old relationships, as well as making new ones, and seeing what new concepts have developed over the past year, I am a bit torn. This is because the Specialty Coffee Association of America show, which is in Atlanta this year, once again overlaps with the NAMA OneShow.

Both shows are important to anyone in coffee. It may be that I cannot make both and will have to make a judgment call at the last minute based on which show has more pending business for me.

I do not understand why both organizations cannot look at each other's calendars and adjust their show dates accordingly. I've mentioned this on several occasions over the years, and yet we have the same conflict this year.

I am not sure why this continues to be an issue, but I beseech NAMA to examine future dates and try to separate OneShow from SCAA by at least a week -- preferably a few weeks. This will no doubt benefit both associations; I cannot be the only industry person who runs into this dilemma.

Memories Of Bans Past

Recently, we saw an article about Hamburg, Germany's banning coffee capsules in government buildings. (The article called them "pods." Do I need to once again rail against that misnomer?) The bestselling portion-pack in Europe is not the K-Cup, but rather the Nespresso capsule. Hamburg's Department for the Environment and Energy argues that coffee "pods" cause "unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation," and "often contain polluting aluminum."

This is claimed as the first city prohibition of coffee capsules, and though Hamburg has a strong record of banning many items deemed bad for mother earth, it may not be the last city to do this by a long shot.

It has taken far longer than I expected for someone to decide that so much solid waste per cup might be a bit of a problem; but now that the cat is out of the bag (so to speak), many jurisdictions could follow suit -- and, with a little social cajoling (which seems to be much simpler these days), it could be that we actually will see full-out municipal bans in the future.

If you don't believe that it could ever possibly happen, just look back at the countless companies in our own industry which got terribly "burned" when cigarette machines started getting banned. If memory serves, it might have been Minneapolis that first banned the machines within city limits, but it quickly snowballed from there, and soon cigarette vending machines were a thing of the past, or at best, a cheap alterative to use as sundry venders in cases in which a new glassfront was deemed unprofitable.

Although this was considered a good thing in an attempt to keep kids from easily accessing smokes, and may have been, it crippled or outright destroyed businesses that staked their entire future on vending this type of product.

In another case closer to our coffee-loving hearts, there was a moment in history in which decaf was claimed to "cause cancer." In a laboratory study, the chemical agent used in the mainstream decaffeinating process, methylene chloride, was found to cause liver cancer in mice. The Food and Drug Administration later overturned this finding; it turned out a coffee drinker would need to consume (are you ready?) nine million cups a day to get a dose of methylene chloride equal to that of the mice in the study.

Regardless of this, and the fact that this all occurred more than 30 years ago, decaf consumption still has not fully recovered to pre-report levels -- this even though 100% Colombian decaf happens to be quite excellent at present when compared to what decaf tasted like back in the day.

I mention these other cases as it might be prudent to be prepared, should the hype trains expand out from Hamburg and you find yourself scrambling for alternate ideas at the last minute. Better to have a game plan in the back pocket, than to have the boom lowered with no replacement solutions in sight.

Business Is Good

With the circus that is the presidential race in full swing, I think it is important regardless of your chosen candidate that we as businesspeople shout it from the rooftops, that businesses and industries are not evil, ugly or corrupt. That these descriptions might fit a few outliers, just as they would with any group, but that for the vast majority of us, business is how we make our livings, and that is not inherently bad or evil, but rather just how humans interact to their mutual benefit. May you all find this month's trade show of great benefit and as always, may your cup run full, and the brew, exquisite.


Kevin Daw KEVIN DAW is president of Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private-label roaster serving the breaktime management industries. A 30-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past two decades.


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