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Nespresso Coffee Conversation opens dialogue on how science can help create new value in coffee

09 October 2013 | Naples, ITALY –
At Nespresso we are driven to deepen our coffee expertise so we can bring our consumers ever new and innovative coffee experiences. One way in which we do this is through collaborative research with scientific experts in fields such as coffee quality, plant research, aroma and physical chemistry as well as consumer researchers. Since 2010 Nespresso has been actively sharing its research findings with the scientific community. This year, Nespresso went one step further and initiated a multidisciplinary dialogue on coffee science.



Inaugural “Coffee Conversation” symposium held in Naples

How can science help create new value in coffee? This was the question addressed by a round table of international experts convened by Nespresso for the inaugural Nespresso Coffee Conversation symposium. The event took place on October 9th in conjunction with the 2013 International Congress on Cocoa, Coffee and Tea (CoCoTea) in Naples, Italy.

Professor Vincenzo Fogliano of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and chairman of the CoCoTea conference, expressed his pleasure with the initiative: “Naples is a city with a very strong coffee culture. It was a great opportunity to not only organise the CoCoTea conference in Naples but also host the first Nespresso Coffee Conversation. It was an experiment for all of us to put together an event with academics from different disciplines and people from industry. The event clearly showed how much more we can learn in our research by breaking the boundaries. It was a very suitable way to start off the CoCoTea conference.’’

“Coffee is a fascinating and complex field, involving numerous scientific disciplines as well as consumer research on emotions and experience,” commented Britta Folmer, Coffee Science Manager at Nestlé Nespresso SA. “Scientific knowledge applied throughout the coffee value chain is essential for creating the highest quality and new coffee experiences for the consumer. For Nespresso as a global coffee innovator, we see our Coffee Conversation as an opportunity to foster an atmosphere of openness and exchange with the wider scientific community.”


Multidisciplinary dialogue on coffee and science

For the Coffee Conversation, Nespresso called upon scientists and industry experts to go beyond the usual scientific symposium and join a discussion on coffee science from a variety of disciplines and perspectives.

Rodrigo Alarcon, a chemical engineer from Almacafé, the warehousing subsidiary of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), revealed new potential for using coffee by-products to create more value for farmers and along the value chain. As one of many examples, he mentioned cellulose from coffee pulp, which could be used for the production of paper, while triglycerides from silverskin could be used for cosmetic, food or pharmaceutical applications. Alexis Rodriguez, Nespresso Green Coffee Quality Manager, suggested that centralised coffee mills could be a good point at which to recover coffee pulp for further value creation.

Professor Thomas Hofmann from the Technical University in Munich discussed how molecular sciences play a role in determining quality throughout the coffee value chain, from the tree to the consumer. Imre Blank, from Nestlé Product Technology Centre York, joined other panellists in discussing how molecular aroma and taste compounds translate not only into taste but also into the consumer experience of pleasure and preferences. Can we decode aroma and taste receptors and relate this to individual coffee preferences?

Shedding light on the similarities between wine and coffee, Professor Philippe Darriet from the University of Bordeaux introduced the history of wine processing, quality aspects of Grand Cru wines and the influence of terroir. His presentation led to discussion on how wine processes can be applied to coffee, such as the use of natural enzymes and bacteria during fermentation of wet-processed coffee to enhance aroma and flavour. Another discussion touched on the richness and complexity of both wine and coffee, concluding that complexity in the cup always stems from the quality of the raw material used for the production.

Renowned “perfumer”, composer and pianist, Laurent Assoulen, noted that in the creation of both music and perfume, a harmonious composition should be surprising without being overbearing – a value that applies to premium coffee blends as well.

The final topic looked at behavioural and emotional aspects that help shape consumers’ perception of coffee. Professor David Sander, head of the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva, examined how emotion can be measured and how it modulates our attention, memory and decision-making. Geraldine Hue from Market Vision, Lyon, explained the importance of the first experience with a product, which creates an “emotional imprint” that informs a consumer’s future relationship with that product.


A strong voice in the scientific community

The first Nespresso Coffee Conversation Symposium was well received by the speakers and panellists, who agreed on the benefits of a multidisciplinary approach in creating additional value throughout the coffee chain. The audience, comprised of an international academic and professional R&D community, likewise appreciated the role of Nespresso in bringing new perspectives and insights to coffee science.

“Our ability to consistently deliver new and superior coffee experiences derives from our relentless research and development. And just as we learn from science, so too can the scientific community learn from Nespresso by understanding how we apply this knowledge in the consumer world. The advantages of open discussions between industry representatives and scientists go in both directions,” Britta Folmer concluded.