“Innovation is bravery that went well.”
~ Guido Bernardinelli
A product-focused booth named Innovation Gallery was spotted at HOST Milano 2019. The booth was crowded and packed with visitors, coffee people, and reporters as well as engineers from the brand: Italian espresso machine manufacturer La Marzocco. “It was good for engineers to demo the product because they were the ones who designed it and highly contributed to the vision of the product,” shares Guido Bernardinelli, CEO of La Marzocco.
The gallery displayed a variety of new products to illustrate what the company had in store for Today – Tomorrow – The Future. The revolutionary Swift Mini grinder and 1-group versions of the Leva and Modbar AV made their official debut into the market, while other technologies such as the next generation GB, the Swan grinder, Wally (the milk steam), the next generation Strada and the connected Linea Mini machine & application were unveiled as prototypes.
“The engineers spent hours and hours in the lab working hard to develop and deliver these design concepts. To have them representing us here is a source of inspiration and pride. Their participation at the show and one-on-one interaction with the visitors also gave them an opportunity to show what they do – and they were extremely excited about that” Guido says.
Those who experienced the Innovation Gallery could perceive the enthusiasm from the eyes of every engineer. But what makes La Marzocco stand out and what does it aim to accomplish in early 2020?
As the No.14 employee of La Marzocco, Guido has witnessed the company’s development and growth. The number of employees of the company now hits more than 400. He has worked in the coffee industry for over 25 years. Thanks to his coffee-passionate mother, Guido started to drink coffee at an early age and enjoyed going to the typical Italian cafés with her. His first job within an icemaker machine company in 1990 allowed him to travel around the world when he was 23. While polishing his sales skills, he also met people with different backgrounds and cultures.
After touring around Africa, East Asia, and even the Caribbean Islands, Guido then began his coffee journey with an Italian coffee machine manufacturer specializing in the market of the Americas. In 2002, he joined La Marzocco. His strong belief and endless passion led him to the CEO position, but he credits the achievements to the entire team. “We just use our imagination and our curiosity,” he shares, “We wake up in the morning, willing to make things happen, and we have fun along the ride.” And Guido shares more of himself and La Marzocco in a one-on-one interview with CTI in Shanghai.
Principle for Innovation
The coffee world never gets tired of innovations. There are new products and revolutionary concepts all the time and La Marzocco is always on the frontier. Some people believe that the birth of the Strada marked a game changing moment for the coffee industry, which defined the benchmark for design in espresso machines. They are right!
With so many milestones achieved as an espresso machine manufacturer, La Marzocco now eyes the grinding market. “It took us a long time to extend beyond the espresso machine to make grinders because it’s a completely different product”. In his view, the manufacturing of grinders is another ‘box’. In his own words, “Being able to build espresso machines does not necessarily mean you are able to build grinders”. But the brand still comes into the scene by presenting two new in-house grinders: Swan and Swift Mini.
“When we come out with a product, we really commit to introducing something that can change and advance the coffee beverage and the overall experience. For us, it was a strategic decision to enter the grinder business,” he continues “… because we think there is room for improvement, hence opportunity.”
As CEO of La Marzocco since February 2018, Guido has led the company on a fast track of development. And he has a different vision from others regarding innovation, “First and foremost, our intent is to improve the quality in the cup.” When the market was gearing towards more automated machines, the brand unexpectedly re-invented a lever machine and introduced LEVA in 2017. “We couldn’t resist to the idea and engaged the engineering department in the quest of designing a new machine that would solve those problems that outdated the traditional lever machine from the industry,” Guido recalls. The new Leva turns out to be consistent in temperature, much lighter to pull and safer to use as the design even improves the extraction. “That machine in my opinion is unquestionably the best machine we have ever made; it is ergonomic, aesthetically captivating and makes the best coffee,” says Guido.
KB90 is an example showing another element of La Mazocco’s formula for success. “What’s the most amazing thing is the simplicity behind,” says Guido. The biggest feature ‘straight-in portafilter’ came from the idea of Kent Bakke about 20 years ago, who is now the company’s Board Chairman. Thus, the machine is named after Bakke. “Definitely, the ergonomic function is a game-changer in the life of a busy café,” says Guido.
At La Marzocco, every machine is different, just like a unique sculpture. “It is very different from one another. But there is a common language, a DNA, that connects the machines through the aesthetical and technological edge.”
As Guido reveals, the La Marzocco heritage is the core of the brand values.
More than Connected
As a highlight of this year’s presence at HOST, La Marzocco showcased its first mobile application for home users: La Marzocco HOME. The APP is scheduled to be officially launched next year. “We believe only 4% of the objects are today connected to the Internet while a good 70% of the people is somewhat connected or has access to the Internet,” Guido points out. Without a universal platform, he thinks that smaller advantages can benefit people through such connections. One aspect is about the service and maintenance of the machine; the other is the community building.
“You can do it (HOME) with the community level, such as exchanging recipes, shipping the coffee from local roasteries, or providing products or barista accessories…” he explains. The idea of Internet of Things, or IOT, is part of the future of human beings. So is with La Marzocco.
The HOME APP can not only make the espresso machine smarter as you can remotely control it away from home but also play with numbers and settings during all the stages of brewing and extraction while connecting all your coffee kits on one terminal. It’s fun and full of potentials and possibilities. “This is the beginning of a new era that will impact espresso machines through connectivity.”
In sum, with the future integration of IoT and the release of the App, La Marzocco aims at bringing the end-customer closer to the factory, bridging the manufacturer and the consumer gap as well as providing an infrastructure for better communication, coffee culture and preventive maintenance.
La Marzocco has a lot of values not just as an espresso machine manufacturer but as an eco-system for sustainability, and as a concept of community.
The Accademia del Caffè Espresso is a reflection of the brand’s definition of what the extension of its essence and communication can be. Stemming from La Marzocco’s iconic industrial building, once home to the brand’s factory from 1959 to 2009, Accademia will re-open to the public next spring as a global center of cultural understanding of espresso coffee. “There’s a connection between you and the brand and the company. People identify themselves with that culture”.
The general gut feeling at the factory was to enhance the experience for the customer because we were unable to verbalize the culture. The opportunity of the old buildin gave us a chance to amplify that culture so that more people could benefit from it. “Come see it to understand it better”. It is the latest step that Guido has envisioned to increase value for the brand.
Potentials in China
In Guido’s perspective, the coffee scene in China is interesting and sophisticated: Globalization brings plenty of opportunities into the country, which meanwhile also manages to keep its traditions. “I’ve seen many similarities in China and Italy, for example, the culture and history.” The culinary habit in China is one thing and the sense of family is another. Like many other international brands getting into the Chinese market, they all find it challenging. “The difficulty is to introduce a new concept to a traditional market,” he admitted. “but we are enjoying the adventure.”
La Marzocco made its debut in China as early as 2003 by working with a local distributor, as one of the earliest international brands of espresso machine manufacturers entering the Chinese market. In 2017, the brand set up its subsidiary company in Shanghai to further promote its brand awareness and serve and connect with its local clients. “So we are creating a demand intentionally and contributing to the establishment of coffee by investing here. The consumption per capita is still quite small. The general market of specialty coffee is however growing,” shares Guido.
“The Chinese are fast learners,” he mentioned. In his view, the young generation who are up for challenges and eager to be successful will make a big difference to the coffee scene in China. “They start early and they want to win. That winning attitude is what we like about China,” Guido concludes.
During Guido’s stay in Shanghai, he also visited a few local coffee shops such as Manner, Peets, etc. to observe and witness the development of the Chinese coffee industry. Every time he visits China, Guido is surprised about the development of the coffee industry and how people enjoy their daily cup.
From sales & marketing collaterals to website design, from social media to the Accademia, step-by-step these achievements show how dedicated Guido and La Marzocco are to the coffee industry. “Coffee is a wonderful place”.
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