Concerns about health have been good news for the decaf market as consumers look to reduce

their caffeine consumption. The market will no doubt have been helped by a recent BBC news story that said drinking decaf coffee can lower the risk of developing diabetes.

Manufacturers have

responded by bringing out new lines or relaunching existing ones.

In coffee, half-caf versions of Nescafé and Gold Blend were launched last year. Ruth Willis, strategic planning manager for Nestlé hot beverages, says they were introduced to answer a specific consumer need. "Different consumers buy Half Caff to those that buy decaf," she says. "Decaf drinkers are people who don't think a lack of caffeine affects the quality of coffee while half-caf drinkers think coffee isn't coffee without caffeine."

Willis says Nestlé has been working with the ­British Coffee Association to put out a positive message about caffeine and coffee. She admits that sales are not huge, but reckons there's enormous potential because decaf accounts for 11% of total coffee drunk and is in strong growth.

Meanwhile, Kenco Decaffeinated instant coffee has been improved with a new blend that uses high-quality Arabica beans, such as those found in the roast and ground lines.

Statistics from ACNielsen show that it is the number one freeze dried decaf in the market, and with continued availability of £2.89 pricemarked packs planned, Kraft expects this growth to continue.

Meanwhile, Taylors of Harrogate launched a decaf company earlier this year. It says the D:caff Coffee Co is dedicated to proving that decaffeinated coffee can taste as good as regular beans. Four flavours are available: Brazilian, Fairtrade, Italian and Espresso, all in 227g packs (rsp: £2.99).

Products are stocked by Sainsbury and Waitrose. Early signs are good for the company, as its Fairtrade blend was recently presented with a gold award at the 2006 Great Taste awards.

In decaf tea, the latest entrant is Yorkshire Tea. Although it's only been available for a few months, Taylors of Harrogate says it has listings with most supermarkets and has received positive feedback from tea drinkers.

And the existing big brand decaf teas are not doing too badly either. Keith Packer, sales director at ­Typhoo, says this is because decaf is in tune with modern healthy living. "Our sales are good but from a share perspective it's


But it is Tetley that is claiming the number one decaf tea spot with a 32.4% volume share of sales, according to ACNielsen [MAT 24 June 2006]. The success has been put down to a relaunch with an improved taste. The tea will be advertised in the coming year as part of Tetley's Everybody's Cup of Tea campaign.

Another area to watch

in the decaf market is

rooibos, which stands

apart from many of the

other decaf teas on the market because it is naturally


Redbush Tea Company says the market for rooibos is growing as consumers become more aware of its health properties. Redbush tea, for example, as well as being high in antioxidants is also low in tannin, a substance which can inhibit the body's ability to absorb and store iron and other protein, says the company.n

Ethical Shoppers seek out a fair deal

Consumers looking for fairly traded and ethical products are spoilt for choice in the hot beverages aisle as an increasing number of brands jostle for space. And recently those smaller, not-so-well-known brands have been joined by the big boys.

The biggest name in

coffee, Nescafé, jumped on the ethical bandwagon late last year with the launch of Partners' Blend, described as a Fairtrade-certified coffee "in a new sustainability initiative for smallholder coffee farmers". But for a brand used to instant success, Nescafé Partners' Blend has had a slow start.

Ruth Willis, strategic planning manager at Nestlé hot beverages, says: "Partners' Blend is small for us, the translation to sales is not enormous yet. But it was important for us to do something like this because it's something we believe in. It has taken significant investment and we'll continue to drive it.

"There's also a question of balance - meeting the demand for high-quality coffee and at the same time guaranteeing supply."

According to Simon ­Attfield, customer marketing manager at Tetley, supply is also a problem for tea. "There just aren't enough fair trade estates to make Tetley fair trade," he says. Instead, Tetley is part of the Ethical Tea Partnership, where members work to ensure the tea they buy is responsibly produced.

However, Andy Good, director at EqualExchange, which distributes organic and fair trade products in the independent natural food sector, believes some of the bigger companies are using supply problems as an excuse. And Jeremy Torz, director at Union

Coffee Roasters, has some misgivings, too.

"I think we can leave

it up to those companies

to decide whether these ethical blends are more about their profit margins than conscience," he says. "But the real judge will be the consumer. Ethical shoppers are savvy and

will quickly decide these blends are a turn-off if the flavours, experience and

provenance are found to

be wanting.

"To make real change, you must have a business model which embraces ethical and fair trade principles in full. To do this, you have to get involved and know the people and their issues and work together to improve them.

Torz continues: "The problem is this is a considerable, long-term challenge requiring a great deal of work. It's much easier to just sit back and do the

bare minimum to achieve your sales."

However, more is being done in the aisles to boost sales of fair trade beverages. Siobhán Molloy, general sales manager at Café­direct, says: "Since Sainsbury's introduced its block-merchandising system in March, sales of Cafédirect have shot up and the whole category has benefited."

Sainsbury's new merch-andising puts Cafédirect at the centre of the block to create stand-out. Other, less well-known brands are positioned around it, and because consumers recognise Cafédirect, the brand has apparently acted as a magnet, drawing consumers to the fixture.

Says Molloy: "It's given a new significance and prominence to the fair trade hot beverage sector that we didn't have before. This has been the best sales driver we've seen. We hope that other retailers will follow."

Not every company has taken the Fairtrade route, either. Douwe Egberts has opted for an alternative to Fairtrade with a coffee that it claims takes "a more sustainable approach to

the industry".

The company has instead pinned its colours to supporting the Dutch-based Utz Kapeh movement, a certification programme that implements global stan­dards for responsible coffee growing and sourcing. It has launched four ground coffees under the Good Origin brand - in medium, strong and rich and medium decaffeinated varieties - which it believes will appeal to ethically minded consumers.

According to MD Grant Rosewarne, Douwe Egberts chose Utz Kapeh over more recognised UK programmes, such as Fairtrade, because it believes that it provides a more robust ­ethical supply chain.

"We see this as a solution for the whole market," says Rosewarne. "You can do so much for the small farmers or get a sustainable supply for the whole coffee chain. It doesn't stimulate over­supply, but pays a premium based on the market."

While he admits that

the programme is not yet well known in the UK, he adds that consumers will initially buy the product based on the Douwe

Egberts name. n