The eureka moment that led to the creation of the 60-billion-pods-per-year coffee capsule market
In 1975, a Swiss engineer by the name of Eric Favre was walking through a busy square in Rome when he stumbled upon a bustling Italian café called Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè.
Having recently started working for Swiss food and drink giant Nestlé, he was wondering why the other cafes on the square were nearly empty, while this particular one was busy.
The barista told him about the unique way in which they made their coffee, which ultimately led to a thicker crema – the foam-like cream on top of the espresso.
It turned out that by forcing more water and air through the pump on the espresso machine, which led to increased oxidisation, the baristas were able to dispense a more flavoursome coffee with a nice frothy crema.
For Favre, it was a eureka moment – and when he returned to work back in Nestlé’s HQ, he set about inventing a more compact coffee machine that would embrace and enhance the techniques employed by the baristas of Rome, as well as making it suitable for home use.
Like Ralph Waldo Emerson and his ruminations about building better mousetraps, Favre believed if you could build a better coffee machine then coffee drinkers the world over would beat a path to your door.
But it wasn’t until 1986 when Nespresso was launched. In one fell swoop, the coffee world was about to be upended forever.
While Favre was the technical brains behind the original Nespresso, it was Jean-Paul Gaillard (who joined as its first commercial director in 1988) who is credited with defining the brand’s personality and developing the marketing strategy that would position it at the upper end of a market which nobody knew existed.
Gaillard wanted Nespresso to be the Chanel of the coffee world – a premium product that would command premium pricing.
The brand would only be sold online or in exclusive Nespresso boutiques where customers were invited to be part of an exclusive global club which had its own magazine. With George Clooney as its cheerleader, it became a luxury lifestyle choice.
In other words, a triumph of marketing over substance.
Much like Gillette’s business model with its cheap razor and expensive razor blades, the cost of entry to the world of Nespresso was relatively low – but once you were in you had no choice but to buy your coffee capsules from it. And there’s money to be made in coffee.
According to Nestlé’s most recent results, which were published two weeks ago, sales of Nespresso in 2020 rose by 7pc to a staggering €5.53bn, buoyed by the fact that much of its key target market were working from home for much of the year.
But the world has also moved on from Nespresso. Today there’s no shortage of appliance and coffee manufacturers selling their own single-serve machines and capsules, often at a fraction of what Nespresso charge.
Parallel to this, consumers have developed more sophisticated palates when it comes to coffee – and while the rise of the branded coffee shops such as Starbucks, Insomnia, Café Nero and Costa have contributed to this, there’s also been an explosion in the number of artisanal coffee roasters that sell quality coffee to a growing customer base.
Here in Ireland, brands like Ariosa, FiXX, Badger & Dodo, 3fe and Silverskin spring to mind. And if you insist on using these brands to make coffee in your Nespresso machine, you can buy re-usable capsules that will let you do so. Not quite what Jean-Paul Gaillard envisaged back in 2006.
Nespresso, of course is not taking any of this lying down. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, there’s no escaping its current Clooney-less marketing campaign to promote the Nespresso Vertuo.
Once again using proprietary technology and capsules, while retaining its sophisticated image, the Vertuo offers coffee lovers a much bigger choice than espresso sized drinks – including mug-sized servings, as favoured by many people and as served in many coffee shops.
While it may be some time before the competition catches up with this latest technological and product offering which, let’s face it, still makes good coffee, the question has to be asked do they really need to bother?
Following on from the success of its Christmas ad campaign which featured Mrs Higgins and her broken gate, Woodies has launched a new summer campaign called New Best Friend.
Created by Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive, the TV campaign revolves around Liam, an imaginative little boy who sees his back garden as a playground full of exciting and adventurous things to do, including helping his mother with the planting.
With the Irish sponsorship market starting to pick up again after a tricky 2020, SSE Airtricity has appointed Core to advise it on all existing and future sponsorships. These include the League of Ireland Premier and First Division in men’s football, the Women’s National League, also in football, as well as the SSE Arena in Belfast, and Sustainability Partner to Dublin Zoo. Led by Noel Martyn of Core, it will also support the brand to source and evaluate new opportunities.