From Your Cup to the Global Stage: 5 Reasons Why Coffee’s Future is Brighter than Ever

This month, I attended the most buzz-worthy conference of the year. No, it wasn’t SXSW (although the crowd in attendance was probably equally stimulated) – it was the National Coffee Association’s Annual Convention. And, yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds.

Between sipping samples from vendors around the globe, I absorbed a lot about coffee’s past, present and future. My lessons began with the legend of Kaldi the goat herder, who first discovered Coffea Arabica when his flock became unusually frisky after ingesting some bright red berries while grazing in the Ethiopian hills, and progressed to philosophical discussions on the increasingly dynamic, venture capital-backed Third Wave movement.

While coffee’s trajectory thus far is a fascinating one, the key insight I left with is that the industry’s future is exceptionally bright.

Here’s why:

1-      Health Halo in the Making. Coffee has a myriad of health benefits that are backed by sound science, but are not yet widely acknowledged by consumers. Dr. Alan Leviton, of Harvard University Medical School, shared data showing that regular coffee consumption (3-5 cups/day) is associated with decreased risk of Type 2  Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer or malignancies. Basically, the more coffee people drink…

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What I Learned While Touring Japan

I recently took a journey halfway around the world. And while I love to travel, I had no idea that I would fall in love with a place that was so vastly different than what I’m used to – especially after 20 hours of flight time. If I’m being honest with myself there are two times others should avoid me – before 10 am on any given day and after approximately fifteen minutes on a flight.

I think most people know that Japan’s healthcare system is above average. In Japan, a person’s entire medical history is attached to their social security card. No faxing documents from one specialist to another (is faxing still a thing?) or making phone calls – all pertinent information is available to all doctors. And, even though I didn’t visit a doctor’s office while in Japan, I did notice other cultural differences that put them a “health grade” above the rest.

Cover your mouth.

Have you ever seen photos of Japan and noticed that a bunch of people may be wearing masks? For some, that’s an odd ritual, but when you’re there, it makes total sense. Japan may be one of the most considerate places…

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Corporate Responsibility

Starbucks’ #RaceTogether Campaign and the Shift toward Pro-Social Brands


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If you’ve been to a Starbucks in the past week, you may have seen something other than your name written on the side of your coffee. The company recently launched a new campaign encouraging baristas to write “#RaceTogether” on coffee cups in order to engage customers in discussions about race relations.

While the sentiment behind this initiative may be good, the public response was not. As it turns out, standing at the register with a line of caffeine-deprived customers waiting behind you, anxious to get their coffee and be on their way, may not be the best time or place to start a conversation about such an important issue. And that’s putting aside the question of whether all Starbucks’ employees were given the appropriate training to initiate these conversations.

Not surprisingly, earlier this week, Starbucks announced in a memo to employees that it would be dropping this aspect of the campaign.

And yet, with all the attention focused on the above issue, most aren’t aware that this was just one element of Starbucks’ overall Race Together initiative, which stemmed from a company forum…

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Digital Marketing

How Brand Sponsors Maximize March Madness

More than bragging rights are at stake this month. It’s March and the madness is real for 16 major brands that scored a chance to advertise the NCAA tournament as an official sponsor. This is a huge opportunity for companies to reach a very seasonal, niche audience of more than 10.7 million viewers and increase brand engagement – a must considering the NCAA pay-for-play investment totals hundreds of millions of dollars. Each sponsor receives access to NCAA logo marks, TV airtime, tickets, hospitality, and more, but standing out from the crowded “sweet sixteen” sponsors can be a contest itself.


Here are some quick tricks we’ve learned from brands making the most of March Madness sponsorships:

  • Leverage fan data: Consumers are more willing to give to their information to their favorite team rather than a corporate brand. Tap into the NCAA’s data from individual sports teams and make a connection directly with season ticket holders.
  • Build anticipation early: Brands that promote their involvement a week or more before the games begin tend to see higher engagement and brand mentions. With so many brands competing for the attention of fans, the sooner a…
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    Investor Relations

    An Afternoon In The Middle Market

    AB1_2819Earlier this month I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon listening to a panel discussion, hosted by Dale Kurschner, Editor-in-Chief of Twin Cities Business.  The panel included some pretty notable middle market heavyweights, including Archie Black, President & CEO of SPS Commerce (a leader in cloud-based supply chain management solutions), Paul Lidsky, President and CEO of Datalink (a complete data center solution and services provider), Gary Maharaj, CEO of SurModics (provides surface modification and in vitro diagnostics technologies to the healthcare industry), and Maureen Steinwall, President & CEO of Steinwall, Inc. (a custom thermoplastic injection molder for small to large parts). With this list of accomplished leaders, my expectations were very high, and I, as well as the crowd of over 100 people, was not disappointed.

    I was particularly impressed from the opening introductions.  While Archie, Paul and Maureen had a few PowerPoint slides to introduce themselves and their companies, I was a bit concerned when Gary said he had about 20 slides to go through in his allotted three minute introduction. GASP!  While you would think that doing something like that (and especially for a medical device company)…

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