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Spain: the world's most active coffee scene.

My guess is that many people have inaccurate impressions of coffee in Spain. They may not know that while it swiftly merges into the larger, more concentrated and controlled framework of the European Community, it continues to thrive as a distinct coffee world to itself; this relates directly to coffee mentality, actual trading, roasting and marketing practices, etc. Many may not know too, that serving this intense, somewhat private, world of coffee in Spain is an entire supply industry, ranging from machinery to packaging. When it comes to coffee, Spain is a collection of strong and separate regional coffee markets. Yet it is also a group of powerful coffee individuals and families whose interests are multi-regional.

Here, the so-called 'multi-nationals', who are the only coffee companies with presence throughout Spain, bear an irrefutable Spanish stamp. Despite regionalism, there is an overall Spanish feel to coffee business, which seems to mix ambition with eccentricity, brilliance with parsimony-the cheapest coffees in the consuming marketplace find their ways to Spain, and unfortunately too often too prominently into the national cup. In Spain, coffee as a drink may not be something to be proud of (although thinking is beginning to change and some seem willing to pay more than lip service to quality), but it is a booming, good business. It is also a matter of character and charisma, and this is a pleasure in our age of increasing corporate orthdoxy.

In volume, Spain's green coffee imports have rapidly increased throughout the past decade. Spain has, in fact, been the world's fastest expanding market for green coffee. The nation imported 175,826 tons of green coffee in 1990, an increase of more than 11% over the volume in 1989, of 158,071 tons. In less than 10 years, green coffee imports have increased by more than 50%.

Brazil remains the leader on the Spanish green coffee market, with sales in 1990 of 43,785 tons (25% of total market). Colombia took second place with 23,947 tons (13.6%). By order of importance, the other green coffee market leaders for Spain are Cameroun--21,675 tons, Uganda--18,387 tons, Indonesia--8,936 tons, Zaire--8,760 tons, Ivory Coast--7,876 tons, Paraguay--4,955 tons, Nicaragua--4,720 tons, Honduras 3,326, Costa Rica--3,261 tons. More than 47% of imports are of Robusta coffees.

The green coffee boom is visually noticeable in the great coffee ports of Barcelona and Alicante--coffee landing in Barcelona for example is up 50% over the same period in 1987, and the port has just initiated its terminal market status. The Spanish green trade has now formalized a Spanish Coffee Contract--in agreement with the European Coffee Contract--and designated a national Board of Arbitration, based in Valencia.

Actual coffee consumption in Spain has also increased, although to less impressive percentages over the past few years. The market for roasted coffee is paced by expansion in food retail sales (grocery and super market). Food retail/roasted coffee sales increased by almost 33% in the five year period 1986-90. In 1990, the sector grew by 10% reaching sales of 50,154 tons. Growth this year is now estimated at 6 %, to more than 53,000 tons. Something like 25% of the entire market is in soluble products. Bar/cafe sales represent 41% of all roasted coffee sales.

It is this backdrop of vigor and growth--so unusual for coffee--that makes the forthcoming European Coffee Congress, to be held in Spain in June 1992, of more than passing interest. In some ways, Spain, as site for the 18th International Coffee Congress, is a kind of official notification that Spain's coffee trade and industry has attained major significance.

Spotlight on Catalonia

One of Spain's independent-minded provinces is Catalonia, in the northeast. Catalonia has a population of about 7 million, most of which is in the Barcelona region. Catalonia is known throughout Europe for its tradition of art and design, and for its pride in its own culture and language. It shares a leading position in the Spanish coffee industry, with two or three other provinces, in part because it hosts major roasting facilities and national headquarters for such dynamic coffee market leaders as Sociedad Nestle and Marcilla (Douwe Egberts). That Barcelona is by far the leading coffee port is also of special importance. In 1990, Barcelona trafficked 107,000 tons of coffee--61% of Spain's incoming volume. The two leading coffee trading companies headquartered in the region, both in Barcelona, are Hispacafe and Plandulra y Carreras. Ignasi Oller is director at Hispacafe, which is a division of CdF Commodities, Luis Buxeres is director at Plandiura.

There are 55 roasters operating in Catalonia, although only a few of these have regional market reach, and only two of them, as mentioned above, have national scope. Barcelona clearly dominates, with 45 roasters alone. The Catalan cup is a blen of 45% Robusta coffees, 35% Arabic, 20% Milds. The key is large screen, 18-20. The traditional torrefacto coffee (roasted with varying amounts of sugar) remains quite popular. Decaffeinated coffee is gaining, not only in-home, but for the bar/cafe sector as well. Although still nascent in Catalonia, and in Spain, the region does have a specialty coffee sector, led in the gourmet sector by Cafes El Magnifico in Barcelona and in packaged coffees by Cafes Cornella in Girona. The Cornella company has introduced a line of 100% Milds, with which it is unique.

Serving the industry are a number of supply companies, such as Bolsera in packaging and Paris in packaging machinery. Bolsera provides the complete contemporary line of coffee packaging films, in rolls or pre-formed sachets, to run on any packaging machine. The company handles more than 100 coffee clients in Spain, France and the UK. Bolsera is well served by Barcelona's position as a leading international design center, with ready access to top design teams for packaging concepts. Bolsera has recently named Maribel Solis as sales director. For information on the line of Paris packaging machines, the contact is Ramon Paris at Telefax (3)7188553.

Uniquely Catalan

Union de Industrias del Cafe, or UNIC, is quite distinctly a Catalan coffee company. Its coffee brands are sold throughout the province, and to the neighboring island of Majorca. A full 80% of its sales are in the immediate Barcelona region.

Jorge Codina is managing director of UNIC. He is also vice president of the Barcelona Coffee Association and serves onthe central committee of the national association. Codina has become something of a 'voice' on coffee in Barcelona, through radio and publications. His emphasis has been to clarify the health and coffee issue, and press for more quality consciousness by consumers and the industry itself. He sees an urgent need to better inform Spanish coffee consumers on coffee characteristics, preparation, and service. In many ways, Codina is a good image of the new coffee mentality not only in Catlonia, but in Spain in general. He is progressive, positive, and activiely engaged in steering his company into new market niches. Change is essential because UNIC falls into the category of an endangered species--the medium size Spanish roaster.

Twenty years ago, as Codina explains, UNIC ranked among the three leaders in a secure provincial coffee kingdom. Since then, however, the market has been liberated and ground coffee, supermarkets and multinational marketers have come to Spain. Nestle, Douwe Egberts and General Foods have acquired strong positions in the booming regional and national market for supermarket sales of ground/packaged roasted coffees. Not only is it difficult for a company the size of UNIC to hold a place on this kind of demanding and highly competitive market, but for UNIC the challenge has been intensified because its main regional competitors--Marcilla and Soleil--are now part of the Douwe Egberts Group.

To better cope with this scene, UNIC is looking to increase its out-of-home and specialty stores sales. Although the brands have shelf presence in supermarkets in the Barcelona region, retail sales now account for less then 35% of sales. Two-thirds of sales are to the Horeca (foodservice) sector, and the company services upwards to 1,000 bars and cafes. As a further buffer, a full 20% of UNIC sales are through the 35 stores in the Caracas chain of specialty food shops--these sales are both by cup fromin-store espresso bars and of packaged coffees. Some of the Caracas stores are independent, seven are owned by UNIC, and managed by Codina's wife Carmen Sabate (her father, Pedro Sabate, has headed UNIC for a number of years). UNIC coffee sales through the Caracas stores have grown rapidly, and Codina expects further expansion in sales.

UNIC is now buying about 1,200 tons of green coffee each year, with sales of 1,000 tons of roasted coffee. Seventy percent of production is ground. The brands range from 100% natural coffee to 80-20%, 70-30% blends of coffee and sugar. The range includes a decaffeinated line. The company is a member of the Material Primas organization, which acts as a cooperative green coffee buying department for several Spanish roasters. Codina gives high marks to this program, particularly the cupping procedures. The typical buying profile is classic for Spain--large screen, emphasis on Brazil, Central America, Colombia and Uganda. For UNIC, however, green quality profile is above the norm. Codina sees this as th surest market defence for a company like his. If you are in Barcelona for the Olympic Games, you can find one of UNIC's Caracas stores on the Ronda San Antoni, just off the Plaza Cataluyna.

Espresso Machines Too

One of Spain's leading manufacturers of professional espresso making machinery is also a Barcelona company. About 36% of all espresso machines now in use in Spanish hotels-bars-cafes were built by Futurmat.

Last year, Futurmat made about 10,000 professional espresso units. Of these, 45% were exported, meaning that the company is also ranking as one of the major international manufacturers both as to sales and style of production. The leading markets for Futurmat machines are Italy, Portugal, France, Belgium, North Africa, Germany, Japan and the UK.

According to the company's export manager, Pedro Raventos, Futurmat exports 1,200 espresso machines to Italy alone. But new markets are becoming increasingly interesting to the company, such as Mexico for example. For Raventos, local distributor backup is key to expansion as this decides quality of service." We've actually refused to sell single machines where there isn't distributor backup," explains Raventos. "No matter how good the machine itself is, if you can't service it well you have a potential threat to your reputation, and that is serious."

Besides service backup, Raventos stresses the range of Futurmat professional machines and the classic production techniques used. "We have a machine for every niche in the out-of-home espresso market--from one to four serving units, from spring mechanisms to fully automatic units. Futurmat belongs to a select class of international manufacturers, distinguished by their craft and care in production. The Futurmat serving group is the same for all models, only the bottom of the dosing unit changes. The head is hand casted from our own molds, brass, at 1.2 kilo weight. Our experience in professional machines remains a main feature; 90% of our production is f 2 serving-group units and up. We also make grinders. We aren't even in the home unit market."

Top of the line for Futurmat is the F 92 model. The F 92 is a completely automatic/electronic espresso machine, self checking and regulating, and featuring pre-set functions. Raventos remarks with a grin that the F 92 is so user-friendly that it can even inlcude a standby 'drip' coffee unit so as to allow one to escape from espresso entirely. Fittingly enough, this Catalonia-made machine was designed by Barcelona-designer Ramon Benedito.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:Write to sell.
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