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Historically High Coffee Prices Create Conditions for Diluted Quality and Adulteration:

Brands with loyal followings should consider ways to ensure authenticity and purity

North Americans drink more coffee each day than any other beverage, including tap water - according to a report by the National Coffee Association - and over 50% of adults reporting that they drink it daily. However, as one of the most widely traded products in the world, coffee has also suffered from supply chain issues of recent years. The pandemic, global conflicts, and erratic weather including droughts, have impacted harvests and distribution, sending coffee prices soaring to new highs: since January 2021, in less than 2 years, U.S. coffee importers have faced cost increases of over 65 percent.

Despite these disruptions and higher prices, demand has not flagged. When so many consumers enjoy this daily habit, consistent good flavour is required to maintain loyalty for any coffee brand.

Coffee is exported from a few countries but the top three are Brazil, Vietnam, and Columbia. Most production comes from two coffee species: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee, a taste North Americans prefer, accounts for about 60% of worldwide production, and Robusta accounts for approximately 40%. Many roasted and ground coffee brands have different proportions of Arabica and Robusta beans.

Due to its high commercial value, coffee is often the target of adulteration. The presence of impurities and mixtures in roasted and ground coffee will interfere with the quality of the beverage. In Brazil, for example, adulterants added to roasted and ground coffee can include coffee husks and sticks, corn, barley, oats, brown sugar, and soy, as well as plants such as açai and triticale. Most of these adulterants have less added value than coffee and a lot of similarities (particle size, texture, and color) when roasted and ground, which makes their detection difficult. In addition to impacts on  quality, this fraud can also represent a risk to food safety.

Some industry associations in the exporter countries, such as the Brazilian Coffee Industry Association, have implemented programs to analyze samples for impurities. These techniques often consist of visual analysis of samples through a stereoscopic microscope. The limitations are that they are time-consuming and costly, and many of the adulterants are difficult to detect through this method.

How can coffee be authenticated?

Producers and brand owners of coffee have an interest in ensuring their products are exactly the quality and type claimed on the label. Enhanced authenticity testing can help them provide assurance and validation that what’s on the label matches what’s in the package.

NMR can identify the presence and concentration of specific molecules in a sample, providing detailed information on the product's composition. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is an accurate and reliable testing method for coffee for a few reasons:

  • NMR provides non targeted metabolomic profiling combined with multivariate statistical analysis with a robust database of authentic samples for verification purposes
  • As NMR can provide non targeted analytical data, it can reveal what else is in the coffee besides the product being validated
  • NMR can quantify the relative percent of coffee species in a ground sample, i.e. Arabica vs. Robusta species, verifying label claims.
  • Investing in NMR analysis allows companies to build a comprehensive library of reference spectra that can be used for comparison with future samples, ensuring the safety and consistent quality of their products.

Looking to ensure the authenticity of your coffee products? Purity-IQ can help.

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