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Pleasures of Italian bars and cafes.

A good Italian neighborhood bar smells first and foremost of coffee, sharp an d strong, rather than of beer. The Italians themselves, rich or humble rub shoulders at the counter, jostling good humork ously for a quick espresso, for that hard hitting dose of coffee essences, stinging like a slap in the face, with sugar shoveled in to ease the impact. To understand the bar and the public drinking of espresso is to know something more about Italy than the guidebooks tell.

Italians will finish an espresso while Americans are still stirring in the sugar, yet built into their fast and habitual gesture of espresso drinking is an entire ceremony. Watch. The way the people approach the bar, look at the barman, look at each other, glance critically at the coffee itself as into the eye of the whirlpool. Only very few Italians will take the coffee indifferently, no matter how quickly. They swill it gently, look at it, and then they drink and take a second to consider it. A typical espresso may require two or three such gulps followed by an ever-so polite smack of the lips. And each drinker at the bar, if asked, will have an opinion about the coffee it's got body but not bitterness, or it's not as good as yesterday's, or it's OK but the coffee at the bar in my hometown is the best.

Interestingly enough, the drinkers may not necessarily know what coffee they have in their small cups, unless the brand concept is strong--such as for Segafredo Zanetti or lllyCaffe or as is true for the 13 regional names that belong to the important Consorzlo Torrefattori Caffe' Bar. Mostly, they merely associate the taste with the bar itself, as part of what brings them to the bar. In a land that loves fine machinery, they may even have more brand recognition of the espresso making machine itself, Cimbali, Rancilio, Nuova Simonelli, Astoria, Brasilia, La San Marco---on and on for the machines can be almost as "local" as the roasted coffee itself.

"Localness" remains one of the most important features of Italy's bar/care market, served as it is by about 750 roasters, of which about 600 are small companies, so small they serve only the neighborhood and can not compete for retail market sales. This army of small companies is what gives an awesome zest and variety to the Italian bar/care scene.

Statistics seem cold against the warmth and pleasures of an Italian espresso bar, but do help give body to this large, exuberant, and lucrative market. They tell us that Italy has more than 240,000 establishments in the hotel, restaurant, care sector--all of which, must most certainly, serve espresso and have an espresso machine The global market for Italian horeca coffee usage is 45,000 tons per year. As part of tiffs, the country has upwards to 130,000 points of sale classified as "bar," and these classic establishments are each said to serve on the average about 137.3 cups of espresso per day.


Some people might be surprised to learn that Italy's largest coffee company, and the leading espresso coffee marketer in the world, does not necessarily have the same kind of market volume in bar/care coffee service. Yet such is the case for the Lavazza company, which enjoys a clear dominance on the Italian retail coffee market, and has leading espresso coffee brands in such important retail markets as Germany and France. In Italy, at least, this is so in part due to strong competition from other companies specialized in the sector. Also, the company purposely chose to emphasize expansion in roast and ground at-home sales during the 1970's and 1980's, when the sector boomed, and where Lavazza has a 45% market share.

Lavazza's foodservice activity in Italy, related strictly to its coffee business, amounted to no more than 5.5% of annual turnover in 1992. Sales volume came to 2,200 tons.

This, nevertheless, brought in 43 billion lire and is based on a client base that numbers some 10,000. The Lavazza marketing department notes that 43% of its clients in foodservice buy more than 25 kg of coffee per month, indicating that their niche is with the larger hotels, bars, and restaurants where management and cliental are perhaps more demanding in terms of service and quality. The company has a line of 11 coffees for its Italian bar/care market, including two 100% Arabica formats.

That the company is now giving more emphasis to the bar/care sector is quite clear. This is so in marketing terms as well as in total program, and relates to the classic Lavazza espresso products as well as to its newer line of Lavazza Point machines and individual espresso capsules. The quickened interest in bar/care showed recently when Lavazza purchased the controlling interest in Henri Large, an important French roasting company that is particularly strong in the Parisian Bar/Care market.

Part of the sector strategy for Lavazza is to field a uniquely bar/care dedicated sales force in every market where it has significant presence. In Italy, the company has a bar/care sales force of 170. Additionally, the company has a team of three experts checking cup quality in the field. This trouble shooting bar/care "taste" force is not a technical service; its role is to help maximize Lavazza espresso quality in the bar/care market. Outside of Italy, important bar/care markets for Lavazza are Germany, where the company has 4% of the foodservice espresso market (but 50% of the ethnic niche), France, the U.S., U.K. and Austria. In the U.S., the company has concentrated its bar/care marketing efforts in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Albany, and San Francisco.

Positioned for lower-traffic espresso bar service, for catered events, hotel seminars, and social events, etc, and for office service, the Lavazza Point system is also rapidly developing. To date, Lavazza has placed about 130,000 of these small, fully automatic, self service espresso making units around the world, although primarily in Italy and France, and is busily producing the espresso capsules needed to feed the units. The latest important development with the system is the announcement that the Wagon Lits organization is to use Lavazza Point in its catering for the French national rail system.

Perhaps the most impressive element of the Lavazza program, however, is the bar/care training center. For several years the company has supported an espresso bar training center in Milan, where barmen and hotel/restaurant school students can attend a two day course that offers a basic education in coffee and in espresso machine use. This includes actually handling green coffee, roasted beans, and working hands on with various types of making equipment. The course is enhanced by audio visual presentations and handbooks.

This summer Lavazza is opening a second training center similar to the original in London and will be inaugurating yet another center, in New York, later in the year. These will provide clients and barmen in the U.K. and U.S. markets with the same kind of training program. When the program is fully developed, these new centers will also be used for hotel/restaurant school courses. The Milan center now host students from about 10 schools each year.

Because the tradition of bar/care espresso service in Italy is indistinguishable from the culture itself, it seems only natural that thoughts of espresso lead to thoughts of art and design. For its part, the Lavazza company is also supporting its bar/care marketing effort with a touring show of works by famous artists that is exhibited in the bars themselves. Going yet a step further, in Italy one becomes aware that the actual place for drinking espresso can be, and ought to be, an art form itself. And for this Lavazza is sponsoring an association of historic bars and cares to help conserve some of our world's most handsome coffee drinking establishments. What better way to say that a wonderful drink deserves a wonderful ambiance.


One of Italy's middle-sized roasting companies, and a specialist in its bar/care market, is Musetti of Piacenza. The company, established in 1933, serves a bar cliental in areas of Cremona, Pavia, Piacenza, and Parma. Although the emphasis in recent years has been on expansion outside of Italy, and with a wide range of products for regular and specialty store markets, almost 75% of Musetti turnover is still in Italy and most of this is in the bar/care sector where the company serves hundred of clients. Likely as not, the fact that the surrounding region boasts one of Italy's proudest gastronomic traditions helps explain emphasis at Musetti on taste and aroma. This means that green coffee is purchased by cupping approval and with such blend sophistication that the company is buying in as many as 23 origins at a given time. About 3,500 bags of green coffee are kept in stock at the Musetti plant, the rest is warehoused in Trieste or Genoa.

Musetti, like all Italian companies, roasts by separate origins and then blends. Roasting is done on two 80'kilo batch roasters that are fired up at 4:00 AM every day. Every batch is still morutored individually by a master roaster, even though the plant is an on-line, single-system operation from green bag reception to grinding and packaging. The Musetti artisanal roast takes a full 15 minutes on the average. Although most of the bar/care espresso products are sold in whole beans and in larger packages (kilo size and upwards), the company has a range of blends, grinds, and packaging lines to produce an array of products. At Musetti, the top line is of carefully selected blends of 100% Arabica coffees, ground as required to suit moka, espresso, or filter styles.

One note on the Musetti production plant: It is likely one of the more carefully maintained and thoughtout facilities to be found. A fairly extensive production capability is squeezed into a small corner site at the edge of the ancient city of Piacenza--not in an industrial park or suburb. This means it must coexist with city dwellers. The plant is arranged on three levels, with a coffee retail shop and offices at street level.

The Musetti family has reinvested heavily in recent years in the physical plant, so that virtually everything is of the latest technology. The entire coffee receiving and handling system is new, and by Brambati, including bulk green coffee receiving station 20 silos for green coffees and 20 for roasted coffees. The packing area features new vacuum brick-pack line by TME for the ground coffee, a TME valve line for the whole bean bar/care production and Ferrum tinning lines for 125 gm and 250 gm formats.

In addition to espresso, Musetti provides its bar/ care clients with its own line of "ToDay" teabags. The company imports and packs the tea directly from Sri Lanka. Recently, the line has been extended with flavored ice tea mixes, one of the more unusual being a peach flavored instant tea.

Musetti also markets a uruque, hot chocolate mix that can be made directly on the espresso machine steam spiget and that has proven quite successful. The company's coffee products are complimented by a decaffeinated espresso which is processed from Musetti's own green coffee blend at Verwerkaf, a decaffeination plant, in nearby Parma.

Outside of Italy, Musetti sales have expanded so rapidly that in only a few years they have gained to more than 25% of company turnover. Sales abroad, while also to the bar/care sector, have seen particular growth in specialty store and gourmet food areas. Musetti coffee and chocolate drink products are sold in France, where there is an affiliated sales company, and through agents in the U.K., Channel Islands, Poland, the Czeck and Slovak Republics, Japan, U.S., and Denmark. The company uses three smaller importers for the German market and exports directly to numerous other nations. The coffees are marketed in some countries under the Musetti label, and in the U.S. as the well-known Ciao brand.

The latest extension to the coffee product line includes espresso pods and a complete line of flavored, ground coffees; lemon, strawberry, anise, chocolate, flower, orange, mint, Irish Coffee, vanilla, and the classic of all Italian classics--amaretto- As it turns out, these flavored coffees, targeted for the international specialty market in appealing, 125 gm tins, have been personally created by brother and sister Achille and Lucia Musetti, who have followed their parents--Luigi and Nina--in the family business.

Concerning espresso pods, there is a collaboration between Musetti and the Monopack company, which is based in Roccabruna in the Piedmont region.

Monopack manufacturers the pod-making machines, as well as the coffee machines that utilize the pods, mainly for office coffee service. Monopack also makes semiautomatic professional espresso making machines for the bar, the Cappuccino Express Line.


A professional espresso making machine that many Italian drinkers might recognize by name is Rancilio. This is because the firm ranks among the five largest manufacturers of espresso machine and has been a strong contender for bar business in Italy since WWII.

The company was actually rounded by Roberto Rancilio in 1929 in Villastanza di Parabiago, not far from Milan. Today, the company is still a family owned and managed business with Mrs. Roberta Rancilio as president. The production remains specialized in manufacturing equipment for the bar-- including washing machines, grinders, and ice makers-and the real basis of turnover is the professional espresso machine, although Rancilio also makes home-use machines. The company makes four basic types of professional espresso machine--lever, hydraulic, semi-automatic with a mechanical valve, and automatic with the group controlled by a celanoid valve.

As extensive as sales have been throughout Italy, fully 60% of Rancilio turnover is now in export markets. France is first in sales outside of Italy, and for it Rancilio launched a hydraulic-type machine that soon earned a 10% market share. Rancilio was also one of the first companies in France to launch a fully automatic machine with an integrated counter box. Following in importance is now the U.S. market, then comes Spain, Portugal, and Austria. By principle, in its main markets Rancilio works with several distributors in order to maintain a "local" touch. The company says this gives it strength in service and spare parts. One of the company's newer markets is Mexico.

The people at Rancilio are eager to show their production line, and for good reason. The company has invested in its 200 workers and in their machine--the Rancilio complex in Parabagio includes a sports stadium and worker social center that doubles as a training center for distributors. The production line also includes the latest technology in tooling, painting, finishing, while all the final assembly and testing is by hand, on a unit by unit basis. To help control on-line quality, the production speed is carefully paced to a norm set in 1973. Also a computer profile has been created and maintained on every part used in a Rancilio machine, unit by unit, dating from 1980 so that the company can track all the elements used in its line.

Rancilio machines have long been credited for their distinctive design, as well as their technical features. By company policy, they came off the drawing board to look and perform with distinction. The company offers a selection of serving capacities, features and options that respond to the range of espresso bar market demands. One feature, and of special interest in markets were tea is also an important bar beverage, comes with the top-of-the line automatic model, the Omicron; fresh water is drawn and heated independently by steam to do justice to a cup of tea.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on Cimbali's new Dolcevita espresso and cappuccino machine
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Market segments in foodservice.
Next Article:Inside the Dutch bar/cafe market.

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