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Descriptors: NUTS!

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:16 am
by Colleen Anunu
While not specifically related to cupping, I'm wondering how often those of us involved with roasting and setting label/cupping notes have reached an impasse with customers who respond negatively to nut descriptors, given allergies, et al.

Also, how have you dealt with it? 'Contains no trace of nuts' footnote on your packaging? Determined not to use the words hazelnut, walnut or almond anywhere within 20ft of your product for fear of contamination? Said, "Whatever, I know my flavor wheel, and sugar browning by-products. Roasted peanut is roasted peanut."

I'm interested in whachoo do. Thanks!

Re: Descriptors: NUTS!

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:03 pm
by nolandutton

An interesting side note to your question.

I don't know exactly if sales have been affected by using nuts (almond, hazelnut, peanut etc) as a descriptor, but we have had interesting reactions from people who are allergic to nuts. At a cupping with a new wholesale customer we had a coffee on the table that had some sweet hazelnut and almond flavors and absolutely nothing wrong with the coffee. This customer, though, thought the coffee was horrible and couldn't explain why. We talked flavors and when I brought up the nut flavors he immediately said he was allergic to them. He must have had some negative (obviously) associations with those flavors and couldn't taste the coffee without conjuring some bad past experience.

To answer your question, we use the flavors we taste on our labels even if someone might be allergic to the ingredient (though not the flavor). We are good at telling people that the labels talk about the flavors within the coffee, not the flavors of anything added or 'roasted in'. The only descriptor we have learned to avoid is 'tobacco'. Even when in reference to fresh tobacco, someone inevitably can't get the idea of cigarettes out of their head!


Re: Descriptors: NUTS!

PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:36 pm
by JoeMarrocco

My vote: use the descriptors you taste in the coffee on the bag. I will tap into the "slippery slope principle" here, even though I hate that one. If we begin to craft our descriptors to color the palates of our customers and stray away from things that they may not be interested in, we are essentially short-changing them. If we want to offer descriptors on the bag, they must be completely accurate. I love the way they James Hoffman speaks on this issue. He says that if you put a descriptor out there to a customer, you are in essence writing a contract with your customer. I think Nolan kind of touched on this. What if you leave that descriptor off of the lable, and the customer has a visceral reaction to it? By leaving a prominate taste note out of the otherwise accurate list you are impeding the service to this customer. I would say either include the forward notes on the bag in their entirety, whether lovely or not (i.e. tobacco, nut, tomato, meat, etc,...) or accept that you are in breach of contract and know that you may have an upset customer who will not enjoy the coffee. This may be an extreme view,...

Maybe we can say "Notes we enjoy in this coffee, not ingredients we add" or something to that effect. Conversations around this topic with your customer are probably the best route.

On an entirely different "note" (heh heh...) when are we going to start including pairing suggestions on our bags? Discussing the culinary value of coffee may lead to some interesting developments. Just a thought.

Cheers Colleen!!


Re: Descriptors: NUTS!

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:46 am
by Phil.Johnson
Colleen Anunu wrote:While not specifically related to cupping, I'm wondering how often those of us involved with roasting and setting label/cupping notes have reached an impasse with customers who respond negatively to nut descriptors, given allergies, et al.

The only question I've received when using such descriptors, were questions regarding if I used chemical flavorings to produce those flavors. I use descriptors like: nutty, nut-like, nut flavors, earthy etc. and have not had any questions regarding whether I actually put nuts in there. Folks with serious allergies are probably justified in eschewing any product that even mentions the word "nuts" on the packaging whether the product actually contains nuts or not since the slightest slip on their part could kill them.

There are lots of folks without nut allergies that simply don't like the tannic nut flavors in their coffee just as there are folks out there that simply don't like the fruity flavors of dry or natural processed coffees. So you can't be all things to all people.

If you do feel the urge to put a statement about nuts on your coffee (like "contains no trace of nuts") I would tread cautiously here. There are some farms/co-ops that also grow nuts as well as coffee and the folks that process the coffee sometimes snack on the peanuts while they work and some of the shells and nuts can find their way into the bags of green coffee.