Lavazza family returns to Melbourne for Australian Open

Lavazza Group Vice Presidents and cousins Marco and Giuseppe Lavazza have returned to Melbourne with one eye on the tennis and the other on growing their Australian presence in the food service sector.

Lavazza is the only food and beverage sponsor of all four grand slams – including Roland-Garros, the US Open, and Wimbledon – for the second year running.

In an interview with BeanScene Editor Sarah Baker on-site at Rod Laver Arena, Marco Lavazza said the brand’s investment in key sporting events such as the Australian Open was key to driving growth in the Australian market.

“It makes strategic sense for Lavazza. Our target customer profile fits perfectly with that of a tennis fan, and beyond that, presence at key tournaments is part of our international development strategy to get involved with our customers and to further showcase our quality products in key countries – and Australia is one of those,” he said.

From 16 to 29 January, Lavazza’s premium coffee has been served at the Australian Open at more than 30 on-site outlets, with instillation assistance from Service Sphere. This includes the Lavazza Café at Grand Slam Oval which features bespoke cold beverages including Cremespresso and Nitro Cold Brew, and for the first time, a permanent Lavazza Coffee Lounge at Garden Square.

Lavazza is the world’s sixth ranking coffee roaster. The Group has operations in more than 90 countries through associated companies and distributors and exports 53 per cent of production.

After last year’s acquisition of French brand Carte Noire and 2015 acquisition of Danish company Merrild, both number one players in their respective countries, Lavazza employs about 3000 people and has a turnover of 1473 million euros according to its 2015 financial statement.

“2016 was the year we acquired our private distributor in Australia (Valmorbida), 2016 was the year we transitioned and established ourselves, and 2017 is a year of growth,” Marco told BeanScene.

“Last year we grew by 50 per cent in the food service industry and we want that to continue. We are also in a period of consolidation from the company’s we bought, and now we need to digest them. We want to become number one in the world. Not everyone thinks we can, but we like to break the rules and we’re confident we can. We want people to understand that we’re not a typical round, multinational company.”

In what may have come as a surprise move to some, at the end of 2016 Lavazza launched its first premium instant coffee range, Prontissimo!, a decision Marco says was strategic but risky.

“In some ways instant is far away from our core business, but it took seven years of research and development to get it just right. And believe me, if it wasn’t good we wouldn’t have released it. We put our 120 years of expertise to the test and we believe it’s paying off. It’s another way to connect with our audience and to help others transition to drinking espresso,” he said. “We weren’t worried. Every time we try to develop something new it is a challenge, but we’re motivated by creating a 360-degree experience for our customers.”

For others, Giuseppe Lavazza says Prontissimo! is set to reposition consumer’s visions on what instant coffee can be.

“Its key is using innovative technology to achieve fresh micro-ground coffee that’s then added to the liquid coffee to enhance its aroma, along with a few other ‘secret processes’,” he said. “Specialty coffee is growing around the world but it’s just one part of the equation. Instant still accounts for the majority [of coffee consumption] and this year I think we’ll see it recognised as a major player. It offers consumers convenience but above all what counts, is the taste. We need to be focused on the quality of the cup at all times.”

This year Lavazza will return to the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE) for its fifth year to share its 120 years of coffee experience. Marco says events such as MICE are important to understanding Australia’s unique coffee culture.

“Melbourne is the coffee capital of Australia. We believe strongly in this market and we want to be apart of activations [such as MICE] to grow even more and show our expertise,” Marco said. “As long as we’re a family multinational, we need to adapt to the needs of our consumers. It’s not easy. We know there are something like 900 roasters here, but Australia is a big country and there’s space for a brand like Lavazza.”

Marco adds that MICE is about enlarging and protecting its global vision. “There is an evolution of coffee in this country, and Lavazza’s endorsement [of MICE] is important to us,” he says. “It’s about sharing our expertise and meeting our customer’s expectations. We care about what they like and we want to go beyond their expectations. It’s part of our DNA. We have to be perfect. We produce 20 billion cups each year. Every single cup takes time, passion and investment, but it’s our life.”

While there may not be much time to relax on this ‘work trip’, Marco says the 20-hour flight to Australia is always worth it.

“Coming here is always a pleasure. I like Australia’s culture and lifestyle and strong habits of what you like to eat and drink. Like Italians, you like to enjoy life, take time for yourselves, and reward yourself with good coffee,” Marco said.

Marco says he would have liked to see an Italian win the Australian Open this year, but with Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi out of contention, he’s backing Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal for the win.

“Being the first major tournament for the year the results are always unpredictable,” he said. “I don’t mind as long as the winner does their best and fights with passion – like us.”

Photos by Lucas Dawson.

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