Teeccino founder sees coffee alternatives taking off

Teeccino founder sees coffee alternatives taking off

CARPINTERIA, CALIF. — From jitters and headaches to insomnia and acid reflux, caffeine’s side effects are driving some shoppers to eliminate or cut back on coffee. Those who still want to enjoy the morning ritual, energizing boost and bold flavor of a cup of coffee are turning to coffee alternatives.

Several new players have entered the space recently, with emerging brands like Mud\Wtr, Mellow Rooster and Buzz Lite catering to shoppers looking to curb their caffeine intake. Teeccino has been ahead of the trend for nearly three decades.

Launched in 1995 by Caroline MacDougall, an herbal tea designer-turned entrepreneur, Teeccino pioneered the coffee alternative category with its chicory-based brews.

“Coffee doesn’t give you real energy,” Ms. MacDougall said. “It actually gives you a state of stress by boosting your cortisol levels. Teeccino gives you energy because it is high in potassium, which goes in and gets your cellular metabolism going.”

In today’s beverage landscape, interest in more natural ways to boost energy has product developers exploring a range of functional ingredients that may replace caffeine. That wasn’t the case when Teeccino first landed on shelves.

“I used to hear from people, ‘What? No caffeine? What’s the point?’” Ms. MacDougall said. “I never hear that anymore. The world has really changed.”

Several trends have converged to spark fresh interest in the category, she said. Already gaining momentum before the pandemic, awareness about the importance of sleep and mental well-being is bringing more shoppers into the fold.

“When COVID hit, people really started looking at anxiety, which they traced back to caffeine,” Ms. MacDougall said. “There’s also the gut health trend, which led people to start thinking about and being aware of acidity. Coffee has really been hit from both sides. Decaf is more acidic than regular coffee, so that doesn’t satisfy, either.”

Whatever their reason for ditching coffee, most consumers aren’t willing to sacrifice the brewed beverage’s familiar, full-bodied flavor, she added. A key ingredient in Teeccino’s blends is ramón seed. Harvested in Central America, roasted ramón seeds have a similar taste to dark roasted coffee with chocolate flavor notes.

“Ramón seeds really gave me a depth of flavor that I couldn’t get originally,” Ms. MacDougall said. “When I first started making Teeccino, I made it a little more complex with roasted almonds. I put in dates and other things to make it a little sweeter. People came back and said, ‘We want something that’s bitter, something that tastes like the real thing.’ I think it’s important to have a diverse range of flavors, but the profiles need to stay on the coffee mark.”

Teeccino offers a broad range of flavors spanning chocolaty, creamy, nutty, spicy, minty and fruity tastes. It also offers a range of roasted tea bags. Functional ingredients like adaptogenic mushrooms and plant-based prebiotic concentrates are appearing in the company’s products, delivering added benefits around stress reduction, gut health and immunity.

Looking ahead, Ms. MacDougall expects the category will continue growing, with Teeccino bringing new flavors, formats and functional ingredients into the space alongside newer brands.

“Having been in the space for 27 years now, I’m really thrilled that there are so many competitors and people with different takes on the same idea coming in,” she said. “When we were all alone in the category, nobody was writing about it or calling it a top trend.”