Words: Alexia Petsinis
Marco Lavazza’s first memories of coffee are probably similar to yours and mine. The morning hum of his father’s espresso machine; its nutty aroma wafting through the kitchen. Indeed, coffee is intrinsically part of our daily lives, but for Marco Lavazza – fourth generation in the Lavazza family and Vice President of the Lavazza Group – it’s the epicentre of his universe.
Visiting Melbourne to celebrate Lavazza’s ongoing partnership with the Australian Open, Marco took the opportunity to reflect upon his family’s empire, and the leadership responsibilities that come with his executive role at the helm of Italy’s biggest coffee maker. Little surprise that some of the most significant career advice has come from his father Alberto Lavazza – President of the Lavazza Group – who gave him the choice to enter the company at age 12.
“We were taught to be genuine. We were taught to be caring to our staff, and most importantly, to always have passion. You don’t turn over €1.9 billion just by being nice,” he reflects. “Your role should be driving you, otherwise, do something else.”
Based at the company’s headquarters in Turin, Marco is supported by a close-knit group of family members and managers who each offer unique perspectives on the business and its expansion into new markets. Lavazza acquired Blue Pod Coffee Co. in Australia in 2018, and report significant growth in the Asian and Eastern European markets.
“Be a good listener, have open and honest relationship with you managers. Be willing to listen to things you might not want to hear. The ‘Yes Man’ never helps anyone,” he adds.
While Lavazza is in competition with several global coffee giants, there is much to be garnered from Marco’s business strategy concerning the company’s commitment to innovation and growth in the next five years. He is dedicated to a values-based approach, not simply acquiring companies for the sake of it.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about acquisition or investing, there has to be certain values you uphold; human values first and foremost, and then economic values,” he says.
“People aren’t going to the supermarket for the sake of satisfying a primary instinct to eat anymore. They want to connect with the brand they’re buying. It’s not just a product. It’s an experience.”
From fashion to art, dining to sport, Lavazza’s undeniable point of difference is the quintessentially Italian experience it embodies; a taste of la dolce vita. Case in point, Caffe Lavazza – the multi level on-site activation the Australian Open. Tennis goers are invited to stop in for a much needed Macchiato or a whipped Cremespresso, taking a moment to lose themselves in the sensorial experience of smelling, tasting and sharing a coffee with friends. The Caffe’s fit out adopts the sleek design proportions of Italian neorealism, transporting one to a bustling piazza in the heart of Milan or Turin.
For Marco Lavazza, it all comes down to two words: Italian lifestyle.
“Everyone wants to come to Italy at least once in their life. Everyone wants to understand our culture. Everyone wants to wear our fashion. Everyone wants to eat our food. I think this idea creates a wonderful possibility for an Italian company like ours to express who we are and what we do,” he says.
“Understanding the Italian way of life is the key to understanding why we are so happy to work in the coffee business and to invest in our brand name, which is a family name.”
The company’s sponsorship ventures over past few years illustrate the extent to which Lavazza is not simply synonymous with coffee, but with style, elegance and creativity. Lavazza is the major coffee partner of international museums including the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Guggenheim in New York and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. The company also sponsor numerous global design projects and gastronomic initiatives with ambassadors including acclaimed chefs Jock Zonfrillo and Massimo Bottura. Lavazza even worked with NASA to send one of their espresso machines into space for astronauts at the International Space Station. Not even the sky is the limit.
But perhaps the burning question for any Italian coffee mogul is not necessarily concerned with economics or expansion, but rather, with Leonardo da Vinci. If he were alive today, what coffee would he order?
“He was an inventor, so he would have come up with something totally new that doesn’t even exist today, something absolutely outstanding. But being an Italian, he would of course choose Lavazza,” Marco notes, with gusto.
Cover Image: Shot by David LaChapelle for the 2020 Lavazza Calendar, image supplied by Lavazza.