With the popularity of coffee shops and cafes continuing to bubble away, the competition to supply coffee machines has got ever more heated. So how are the suppliers making themselves stand out from the crowd and translating this into dealer relationships?
For Nespresso UK, its B2B commercial manager Ian McDonald believes the company’s point of difference is understanding the demand for premium coffee. “In order to meet this demand, we have developed machines that brew the highest quality coffee, time and time again. Crucially, it is the commitment to developing our Grands Crus that allows Nespresso machines to brew the premium coffee consumers want and expect. We are confident it is this that sets us apart from our competitors.”
He added: “We also develop machines that are tailored to every business environment. Our Professional range consists of the Zenius, Gemini and Aguila machines. Our Aguila machines meet the demands of busy establishments with high footfall such as cafés and restaurants. With a simple-to-use, one-touch recipe option, the machines are ideal for avoiding time-intensive training for baristas or staff and with perfect milk frothing. The Gemini is perfect for more intimate venues and with its milk frothing function can make flawless cappuccinos and latte macchiatos. Our most recently launched Zenius model offers a compact design and stylish finish with no compromise on performance.”
Nespresso ensures it has ongoing relationships with dealers, with McDonald emphasising that the ability to provide consistent quality at speed is essential for catering businesses. “In response, we develop coffee and capsuled machines that directly respond to these business needs,” he said.
At the moment, the firm is seeing an increased appreciation of milk-based coffees by UK consumers and therefore a greater demand for machines that can brew foamy cappuccinos and creamy lattes at the touch of a button. He concluded: “That’s why capsule machines are so well received – they’re fast, consistent and easy to use whilst also being simple to clean.”
Elsewhere, Fracino is flying the flag for Britain, with head of global sales and marketing Peter Atmore detailing: “As the UK’s only manufacturer of espresso and cappuccino machines, we champion British manufacturing craftsmanship. A proud member of Made in Britain, the majority of our products are made in-house and we display a Union Jack on every machine which leaves our factory.”
He believes: “Attracting and retaining some of the best coffee machine distributors nationally and internationally, our reputation as a manufacturer combining state-of-the-art production techniques with style and award-winning technology is acknowledged at home and overseas.”
These distributor partnerships are strengthened due to Fracino constantly investing and expanding, according to Atmore. “We’re equipped with the infrastructure and expertise to provide warehousing installation and ongoing technical support to dealers on a ‘cradle to grave’ basis. This support spans stocking, despatching, installing and servicing products.
“Our extensive technical support network of engineers can install coffee machines anywhere in the UK and provide spare parts made in the UK – making us fast, reliable and effective. Our world class manufacturing capability also gives us the flexibility to produce machines with bespoke finishes.”
He reported that dealers are currently most often approaching the manufacturer for entry level traditional barista machines. “Our Bambino 2 group espresso coffee machine with semi automatic or electronic options provides exceptional value and is among our most popular products with this sector.”
Surveying the overall coffee machine landscape, Atmore said: “Although we’re not witnessing a surge in consolidations or takeovers, we are noticing an increase in new entrants seeking to capitalise on the UK’s booming coffee market. In recent years, however, many of the European suppliers have found breaking into the market more challenging than they had anticipated and have bowed out. We’re not expecting the rise in suppliers will impact on our UK or global sales in the immediate or medium term future.”
Over at Verde Coffee, MD Mark Harrison feels that its service makes it stand out. “There are a lot of suppliers out there that are just ‘sell and go’; we like to build lasting relationships with our customers and we’re there when they need us,” he commented.
“We have our own team of engineers, who always arrive prepared with all the parts required for on the spot machine maintenance. We also offer a full range of equipment such as water boilers, blenders, juicing machines, so caterers can save time buying in one place.”
Detailing that Verde Coffee supports its dealer relationships with comprehensive training on its Visacrem espresso machines, he added: “It is essential that dealers understand the specifications of the machine with regards to cups per hour, electrical and water requirements, as well as dimensions; without this knowledge it would not be possible to ensure the end customer is purchasing the correct machine. We stock a full catalogue of parts for the machines and can be there to help with any technical issues.”
The supplier is seeing a high demand for traditional espresso machines which are usually on display to patrons. “Traditional machines also don’t have the grinder internal to the machine, which means there are less technical issues and the barista has more control over the serve of the coffee,” said Harrison. “The ease of maintenance and reliability of these machines also makes them popular with our dealers.”
Looking to the future, he predicted: “Our industry has grown at a rapid pace over the last 15 years and I believe the recent wave of supply and retail consolidation will only accelerate. The coffee market is booming and I suspect we will be seeing more entrants in future.”
While Italian manufacturer La San Marco is not a solely distributor-dedicated outfit, its general manager Roberto Nocera believes that its constant commitment to improve its products and services guarantees its customers high quality professional coffee machines. “La San Marco is also working to market technologically advanced machines and with a refined and functional design,” he revealed.
“Respect for the environment and rational use of non-renewable energy resources are key values for our company. For each of our products, we have chosen to use the most recyclable materials without losing performance. Through periodic reporting we constantly monitor the process of disposing of our waste processing by checking the correct recovery process.”
La San Marco’s coffee machines range comprises more than 60 items and 800 product variants, all designed and built in the Gradisca d’Isonzo factory. This incorporates ACTecnology (Advanced Concepts in Technology) available on the manufacturer’s multiboiler machines, which is said to give the barista the maximum freedom to program all the operating parameters related to coffee extraction, through a modern touch display.
Models such as the Leva Luxury are designed to be eye-catching with a body entirely made of tempered glass, and this also features the Controlled Lever Anti-Shock System (CLASS). La San Marco also offers Bluetooth remote control for its machines along with a dedicated app accessed via mobile devices.
Nocera reported that the primary market demands have changed: “The general trend focuses on machines able to combine the latest technology with an attractive design, while some time ago the price was the main driver in the evaluation of a product.
“Even ergonomics has become increasingly important, so La San Marco has also invested in research to develop and market machines and grinders to free the user from repetitive and ‘not rewarding’ professional skills.”
At Caffeine Limited, it prides itself on customer service and care. “We always treat everyone with the upmost importance,” said MD Justin Stockwell. “If you can’t ring and speak to someone directly, then that just isn’t good enough. If any customer has a problem then we will find a way to fix the issue efficiently, quickly and with a smile on our face.
“We don’t just sell a coffee machine and move on. We hold the customer’s hand – we are their coffee experts. Through regular machine checks, coffee training and effective communication we help our customers ensure they are serving the best coffee possible.”
The supplier feels it also works hard to support its dealer partners. “Dealers and end users appreciate suppliers with expertise – and we have over 30 years’ experience in the coffee industry,” believes Stockwell, adding: “There are more companies entering the market, though at the same time there’s a certain amount of consolidation.”
He reported that traditional machines are still in demand, due to lower costs, but noted: “However, more and more companies are considering our Schaerer bean to cup machines as they are so easy to use and maintain, whilst providing the theatre performance of a traditional machine.”