Cafetto MD Christopher Short: Onwards and upwards for 2021

christopher short

Cafetto Managing Director Christopher Short discusses permanent behavioural changes on the back of the global pandemic and plans to meet growing consumer demand. 

Welcome to another year. Another year of adventure, opportunities, and challenges.

christopher short
Christopher Short is Managing Director of Cafetto.

When I look back at the year that was, I think how lucky we were to survive – as individuals and businesses. The hospitality industry was so fortunate to have government support schemes like JobKeeper to keep it afloat during our darkest times, and to see so many businesses weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side is nothing short of amazing. 

None of it was easy. Hospitality businesses did their best to reflect, rethink, and refocus on what needed to be done, even us at Cafetto. After all, 2020 was a game of ‘survival of the fittest’. 

When the pandemic first hit, I cut my Europe trip short by a month, fearful of flights being grounded and stuck in a foreign country. I raced home on one of the last international flights before the COVID calamity could catch me. I landed in Adelaide on Friday 15 March, just as borders were starting to close, and I haven’t been out of South Australia since. 

Adelaide went into its own lockdown for an extended period of time, and like so many others, I was concerned about the impact this virus would have on Australian coffee businesses and those around the world. The café industry is Cafetto’s lifeline. 

We have been providing coffee equipment cleaning solutions since 2003 after seeing a gap in the market for these types of products. Seventeen years later, Cafetto distributes to more than 50 countries, with our head office in Adelaide and sales office in Melbourne, The Netherlands and Singapore.

To be completely honest, I thought the impact to the business would be catastrophic, foreseeing an impending national lockdown and the closure of café businesses for who knew how long. But to my surprise, Cafetto product sales in Australia and New Zealand were sustained while our overseas sales increased considerably thanks to new business developed in the year prior. 

Watching the situation unfold from our base in Adelaide, we really did see a mix of results. Lockdowns and restrictions placed on the hospitality industry saw dine-in coffee consumption slow rapidly. Now forced to work from home, café customers who would traditionally frequent city venues decided to become their own home barista. Just as they sought the same quality coffee experience in the leisure of their own home, they took the care of their equipment just as seriously. This was music to our ears. It meant not only was the education on clean coffee equipment getting through but being practised.

As a result, Cafetto’s Home Range grew dramatically along with the sale of home barista machines. It provides customers with simple solutions for cleaning domestic machines and helps coffee lovers make the best at-home coffee possible. 

It includes high performance cleaners in convenient single-use sachet packs to ensure correct dosing, easy product handling, and eliminate the risk of contamination. 

Such was the expansion of home coffee sales that demand for single serve products rose dramatically, challenging our manufacturing capacity. As a result, we’re excited to announce that a new purpose-built portion control production facility for single serve products is now under construction. 

I believe permanent cleaning and sanitation structures will continue to be enforced in all hospitality businesses. I don’t think anyone will ever question a bottle of hand sanitiser on a café table or office reception bench ever again. And for that reason, we believe a clean and healthy coffee machine is just as important and will become just as habitual, even at home.  

On an industry front, I think 2021 will still see the after-effects of a challenging 2020. I anticipate Australia and New Zealand to continue as ‘business as usual’ thanks to our relatively high yet dispersed population. The fact that we are island countries has allowed us to isolate from the world, relatively free of Coronavirus. But not every country has been as lucky. It’s likely Korea, Europe and the United States will continue to go through their own versions of lockdowns. And as Victoria knows too well, a severe lockdown could mean zero or very limited trade, with a heavy impact on the local market and economy.

Until there is a vaccine that works, and is rolled out efficiently throughout the world, I think there will still be a shadow on companies opening up to full capacity let alone jet setting the skies again. We need confidence to feel safe again. 

I’d love to be travelling again and visiting some of our customers, but sadly Zoom or Microsoft Teams will have to remain a little while longer. These applications have been integral to maintaining relationships throughout the pandemic, but perhaps a little too restrictive to building new business. There’s definitely something to be said for the value of an in-person conversation, and the value of print media, which is where magazines like this one and Global Coffee Report have proven even more trusted resources in times like these.

Australia has always been referred to as “the lucky country”, and we’ve seen that definition ring true. 

Australia and New Zealand have both been very fortunate in their efforts to control the virus, and for this reason I believe society’s passion for coffee will see the industry revive and renew once more. 

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