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Italy's espresso machine sector; from hard times into new designs and specialties.

Italy's espresso making machine manufacturers are proving again that they are very much in control of the international market for bar machines, both in terms of production and sales, and as to innovations in technology and design. Currently the manufacturers here have been busily promoting an array of new models that show clearly how creative and vibrant the sector remains. Actually, the season at hand is marked by such vitality that there can be no doubt that the current downturn in sales for professional espresso making machines is but a passing phase in the sector's evolution.

After years of impressive expansion for Italy's professional espresso machine manufacturing sector, things are looking a little less bright over the past 18 months. The Gulf War, recession, increased competition abroad, such factors have combined to flatten sales during the latter months of 1990 and throughout year 1991. There have been temporary layoffs in some instances, and the industry is though to have built an inventory.

Likely enough, their record of explosive expansion makes the prevailing downturn all the more difficult for the manufacturers to accept. The sector produced 130,000 professional espresso making machines in 1987, according to figures released by UCIMAC--the organization of Italian manufacturers. This annual production level rose to 152,00 units in 1988; to 177,000 units in 1989; and reached an impressive total of 192,000 professional espresso machines in 1990. The production figure for 1990 marks an expansion of 48% over the base level achieved in 1987--enviable growth by any yardstick.

Nevertheless, first estimates of 1991 sales by Italian manufacturers proposed slightly more than 200,000 units for the year, for a relatively modest gain of only 4%. This prediction was later revised to show completely flat sales for the year. Indications now are that sales actually declined, and perhaps rather sharply.

Different manufacturers have been effective by the sales slowdown in varying ways, depending on how strong their export markets are and on which foreign markets they are most active. With sales stable at best in Italy, foreign sales become all the more important, particularly because they have been dominant for several years; in 1990 foreign sales of Italian made bar espresso machines reached a total of 130,000 units or 68% of all production. Some classic markets for Italian made machines have been most effected by the downturn, quite notably France, the leader by far in sales of Italian machines, Austria, Spain and UK. At the same time, the Swiss, German, Portuguese, Dutch and U.S. markets have continued to be stable or even grow.

Recent predictions for sales in 1992, provide hope that the downturn is to be short-lived. One informational source targets 210,000 units as the production level for this year in Italy, led by a strong rebound in exports.

Sales worries aside, it can not be denied that the Italian espresso machine industry is entering yet another design-conscious period at the end of which we are likely to have the espresso |lines' of tomorrow. Observers have been blunt in criticizing the industry for a lack of boldness in design creativity in recent years. Critics' eyes, at least, were becoming tired of the shoebox design for Italian espresso machines. To this the manufacturers will.1 reply that their attention has been on technological competitiveness in the 80's, and market growth abroad. Now the sector leaders are looking hard again at design features, and yes, the curve is back!

The following notes are confined to only three of the numerous Italian espresso machine.manufacturers: Faema because of its new machine, and changing design; Brasilia because it continues to direct part of its production toward important new specialty areas; and Brugnetti because as a small company it represents the traditional espresso machine company in Italy. Other leading companies are also profiled in this special edition.

BRASILIA--A particular source for Italian espresso machine energy is found at Brasilia. This company has made new thinking and approaches into a specialty. Along with its Dutch partners, Autex BV, Brasilia is a leader in espresso coffee pod technology and is now selling the pods (exact doses of freshly roasted espresso coffee in individual paper filters, vacuum packaged) to roasters around Europe. The pods, which are earning a good deal of attention, according to Brasilia, are produced in the Netherlands on machines patented jointly by Autex and Brasilia. These pods are ecologically friendly--no plastic--and so simple as to allow a child to make a surprisingly sophisticated cup of espresso with ease.

Brasilia machines range from classic semi and fully automatic espresso making units, for bar and in-home markets, to new modular systems that integrate espresso (complete with grinding and dosing systems), coffee filter brewing units and tea water boiling units in imaginative ways to give service areas the maximum possible versatility. Brasilia markets this modular concept under the Century line, with several imaginative combinations of units. The Century modular units for |la cafetiere' service.

In other news, the companies semi-professional unit the Brasilia Lady, has won the 1991 award for |Product of the Year' at the recent Hotelympia exhibition in London(product area=beverage equipment). The company is ground breaking for a new factory in Italy. Also, Brasilia is admittedly increasingly militant when it comes to protecting the name of espresso--this led to the companies role as a founding member of Cafe Society in the UK. Cafe Society is an organization whose aim is to promote the use of fresh roasted and ground coffee for espresso in the UK Horeca(foodservice) sector, as opposed to freeze dried products.

BRUGNETTI: Paolo Brugnetti's company has been making espresso machines since 1947. The Milan-based company is surely a classic example of what still gives depth and body to Italy's espresso machines manufacturing sector: it offers a small, tightly controlled production of what are basically handcrafted machines.

The Brugnetti machines are sold under the Aurora brand name, and most particularly in the |40.7' model line--semi and fully automatic machines of 1 to 4 groups and with cappuccino serving spout incorporated. following the 40.7 in importance is the Coffex line, somewhat cheaper, available in one or two serving group heads. Finally, the company offers a line of "Comac' machines, grinders and a semi-professional model for office or home use that is under the Simona Label. The company employs 10; produces about 1,000 units each year. A full 905 of the production is exported, and 40% of sales are in France where the agent is Cafes Malongo. In Germany, the representative for Brugnetti machines is Cabi Caffe. An Aurora USA Inc. has recently been formed, based in Tampa. John Vintges is president of the U.S. sales company.
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Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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