What’s the Deal With Decaf? Taking a Look at the Decaffeinated Coffee Market

The misconceptions we have about decaf coffee paired with the lack of decaffeinated options, I believe, is why more Americans are not drinking decaf coffee. In conversations I’ve had with friends, family, and colleagues, decaf coffee has always been synonymous with “bad coffee.” Decaffeinated coffee is not bad tasting coffee. It’s just an assumption that most of us make (I would assume this is due to the difference between regular and diet soda). The decaffeination process is meant to remove the caffeine, not the flavor. Recently, I was diagnosed with pre-hypertension and was asked to reduce my caffeine intake. I took my doctors’ advice, and I found, very quickly, that there are very limited options for decaf coffee. The options that are available are hit or miss, and there are no coffee companies (from my research) offering a full line of decaffeinated coffee.

Here are the numbers; we’ll take a look at their correlation in the next paragraph. According to the United States Census Bureau, roughly 77% of Americans are over the age of 18, and about 83% of American adults drink coffee, according to Karen Fernau. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the population of the United States on July 4, 2016, was 323,148,587. Carly Ledbetter states that the average American consumes 2.1 cups of coffee per day, but how many people are drinking decaf? According to the National Coffee Association, an average of 8.75% of American coffee drinkers are drinking decaffeinated coffee. Ron Walters reports that the coffee industry in the United States, in 2015, was projected to be a $13.6 billion industry, however, Starbucks controls 39.8% of the coffee chain industry in the United States, according to Statista.

So let’s recap: There are 206,524,262 coffee drinking adults in the United States. Starbucks controls 39.8% of that, leaving us with around 124,327,606 people. Of those, 10,878,665 prefer decaffeinated coffee. Each one of these people will drink an average of 2.1 cups of coffee per day, or a total of 22,845, 197 (rounded) cups of coffee per day, or, 8.3 billion cups per year. When equated to money, that is over 341 million dollars. So why aren’t there more decaffeinated coffee blends available to American coffee drinkers?

What this means that 1 in every 13 people drink decaf, but when a person walks into a coffee shop, they may only have 1 or 2 decaffeinated blends to choose from. Or worded from a business aspect; when a consumer walks into a coffee shop, there should be 1 decaffeinated blend option for every 13 caffeinated blend options available. There are two possible outcomes that I can think of: (1) people associate decaf with “bad taste” or (2) people believe that decaf coffee has ZERO caffeine in it. Taste is determined by the person drinking the coffee, but without different blends to choose from, it is easy to see how bad tasting decaf coffee can deter people from drinking it.

Jennifer Warner wrote that decaffeinated coffee contains nearly one-tenth of the caffeine that caffeinated coffee has. This doesn’t mean that you will not get the caffeine “fix” you’ve been looking for, because you will, but that it won’t be as intense. This can also help eliminate the “crash” after the caffeine rush that prompts the second cup, leading to daily caffeine overconsumption. There is certainly a lack of consumer education about the risks associated with too much caffeine. The Mayo Clinic reported that the recommended daily intake of caffeine is 400 milligrams daily. There is also a lack of consumer education in regards to decaffeinated coffee not being completely caffeine free. If more coffee drinkers were to understand that decaffeinated coffee only reduces the amount of caffeine in coffee, I believe, they would be more willing to make the switch.

To sum it up, the misconception we have about decaf coffee paired with the lack of decaffeinated options, I believe, is why more Americans are not drinking decaf coffee. If more decaf coffee options were available and a fair amount of consumer education is delivered to the public, the decaf revolution could begin!



Phillip Wiseman is a Digital / Social Media Marketing Strategist one of the largest automotive retailers in the world and earned that position due to his undergraduate studies in Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also currently enrolled in the Masters of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2016 by Phillip Wiseman. http://www.thesillygibbon.com



“U.S. and World Population Clock.” United States Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/popclock/. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Fernau, Karen. “Coffee Grinds Fuel for the Nation.” USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/09/coffee-mania/2069335/. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Ledbetter, Carly. “How Much Coffee Do Americans Drink Every Day?” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/27/how-much-coffee-per-day_n_6763422.html. Accessed 20 May 2017.

“National Coffee Drinking Trends.” National Coffee Association, http://michmerch.com/data/documents/National-Coffee-Drinking-Trends-2016-Market-Research-Reports.pdf. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Walters, Ron. “How to Make Vegetarian Chili.” Coffee Review, http://www.coffeereview.com/americans-spending-more-on-coffee. Accessed 20 May 2017.

“Statistics and Facts on Starbucks.” Statista, https://www.statista.com/topics/1246/starbucks/. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Warner, Jennifer. “Decaf Coffee Isn’t Caffeine-Free.” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20061011/decaf-coffee-isnt-caffeine-free. Accessed 20 May 2017.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Caffeine: How much is too much?” Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678. Accessed 20 May 2017.


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