Coffee from Italy is cult, tradition and an important economic commodity – and turns 500 years old!

The tormented Italian economy relies on coffee & co.

Since the international financial crisis, Italy has also been in a permanent crisis mode and ranks last among the most important indicators in the EU.

The purchasing power of the domestic population is therefore also very low and acts as a real brake on consumption, especially in Germany.

For this reason, most companies generally see exports as the only way out. Germany is high on the agenda of many companies.

The culinary diversity of Italy is in great demand, especially in Germany. The filter coffee, which has become popular with Melitta Benz filter paper, is gradually being replaced by espresso and cappuccino, just as pasta is the new word for noodles. Germans love Italian food – more than ever before.

Coffee is one of the most important export goods of the Italian food industry. Besides oil, coffee is also known as the “black gold”. Many millions of jobs worldwide are linked to it and feed entire economies.

The coffee history of Italy is soon 500 years old

In Venice we know the big famous bridge called Ponte Rialto. In 1570, coffee beans were introduced, traded and roasted here by the doctor Prospero Alpini. Venice was thus the cradle of the coffee house scene. Two famous cafés still remember this time – Cafè Florian and Cafè Quadri. At that time coffee was already a means of enjoyment and an elixir of love. It took almost 120 years for the black brew called coffee to spread in all social classes.

In the meantime, with a Caffettiera Napoletana (today known mainly as a bialetti and cooker) the espresso preparation marked the culmination of coffee culture around 1700, and it was not until many years later, in 1901, that Luigi Bezzera invented the first complex espresso machine that could work with high brewing pressure and paved the way for modern espresso.

Illy, Hausbrandt and Vergnano belong to the most renowned and successful coffee roasters in Italy.

Germany is the world’s leading producer of roasted coffee. Italy is only number two in terms of quantity. However, if you look at the value added, Italy is overtaking the German Roasting Guild. This is the high price per kilogram of roasted coffee, which is around 12 euros in Italy and around 6-8 euros in Germany. Here, Tchibo & Co. is pushing value creation and pulling the market down with dumping prices.

Absolute professionals in quantity and added value are roasters like Illy, Hausbrandt or Vergnano. This involves global companies that maintain prices at a high level and attach great importance to quality. Here, quality is much more important than quantity. Illy and Hausbrandt, for example, come from Trieste, one of the most important seaports and transshipment ports for coffee.

Although nowadays only billions of euros are counted, Italian roasting plants are often still very small and familiar. Only Lavazza has an annual turnover of more than 1.5 billion euros and plays in the league of top companies. Roasters like Illy are only about 400 million euros. Small and medium-sized roasters such as Hausbrandt or Vergnano account for 100 million euros.

coffee from italy

Röstersterben in Italy – Roasting companies founded in Germany

The roasting landscape is currently changing dramatically due to the contrasting economic situation in Italy and Germany. While in Italy many small family roasting plants are closing because they are too small and too weak to invest in exports, new local roasting plants are being set up in Germany every week.

In the meantime, 1,200 of 2,000 roasting plants in Italy and 800 in Germany are still in operation. Soon the German roasting industry has overtaken the Italian one. The discontinued roasting plants in Italy will be replaced by the surviving ones, such as the Nannini roaster, which will grow and expand their supply area. Whoever survives the next 10 years has a good chance of success in export.

Export requires know-how and investment

Many small roasters are busy in their daily business only with the deliveries to the surrounding bars and restaurants. Often there are no aroma valves, no international languages and especially no EAN barcodes in the coffee bags.

This requires a financial investment and time in advance. In addition, export has to be planned with different price levels for wholesalers and normal resellers and an image strategy has to be defined. Unfortunately, many Italian roasters believe that business abroad is the same as in the domestic market.

For example, most roasters place the HORECA target group (hotels, restaurants, canteens, bars, etc.) at the top of the customer target group. However, the market is increasingly changing towards online coffee trading. Much will change over the next five years and the online food market will grow to up to 40 billion euros. Coffee as the number one online foodstuff is certainly a winner of this trend and can help the Italian coffee market achieve sustainable growth.

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