By William Seidman Positive deviance and innovation: What do Nick Swisher, Charlie Furbush, Ike Davis and John Lannan have in common?  Baseball, but beyond that, they’re beta testers and, now, fans and users of a coffee-based substitute for chewing tobacco called Grinds. They are chewable pouches of flavored coffee.  Not grounds but ground coffee beans – so that the caffeine stays in.  Company founders, Cal Poly grads and former minor league players Matt Canepa and Pat Pezet experimented late one night with chewing coffee instead of tobacco and “The buzz kicked in,” says Canepa. Canepa and Pezet call the thousands of people in professional baseball their focus group. They tested the product by sending it to several clubhouses, hoping for word-of-mouth to help it take off – with famous guys promoting it for free. It comes in a few flavors (mint and mocha so far) and has the built-in benefit — because coffee, unlike tobacco, hasn’t been found to be a threat to human health —  of not coming with a warning from the Surgeon General. We’re watching this company and its innovative product.  ]]>

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