Tuesday 16 July 2019

Trouble brews as pods make a mokary of coffee


Andrea Vogt

For decades, millions of Italians at home and abroad have started their morning ritual, waiting for the tell-tale bubbling sound that signalled the moka pot was brimming with a strong brew of coffee.

But the original moka - a fixture in Italian homes and an icon of Italian design since it was introduced by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933 - is at risk of extinction as its maker struggles against bankruptcy amid a difficult Italian economy and fierce competition from high-tech coffee pod machines.

On Friday, the Bialetti group announced measures to address a €67.5m debt and "doubts over its continuity".

When Alfonso Bialetti patented his design for the eight-sided aluminium stove-top coffee pot that forces pressurised boiling water up through a layer of ground coffee, the Italian economy was in a terrible state.

It was 1933 and banks were failing, unemployment was high and Italians were cutting luxuries like trips to cafes - hence the demand for an at-home coffee maker.

More than 105 million moka pots have been produced since then.

However, with 150,000 coffee bars in Italy alone - including a Starbucks that controversially opened in Milan in September - and despite more people than ever appearing to be enjoying coffee, moka makers have seen their market share decline.

Experts believe this is not so much due to the explosion in coffee outlets but more to competition from coffee capsule machines, which have gained in popularity ever since George Clooney's Nespresso adverts sparked a coffee pod craze a decade ago.

In 2017, the ground coffee market lost 6pc in volume in Italy, while capsule sales saw sales grow 23pc from 2016, according to analysts Nielsen.

Despite Bialetti owing thousands in unpaid salaries and taxes, the company said it was in the final phase of negotiating a €35m loan in a bid to survive.

Irish Independent

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