The coffee market is as hot as ever. In Europe, the Nespresso single-serving espresso system is showing healthy profits for Swiss food giant Nestlé, and many competitors are aiming for this market. Philips Electronics has enjoyed huge success in Europe with the Senseo system, for more than 10 years now. Senseo is not real espresso (it uses 2.5 bar pressure instead of 9), but as a step-up product for filter coffee it convinced many customers.
As the world’s second manufacturer of small appliances (after French GroupeSEB) Philips carefully executed their strategy in coffee. In 2009 they took over Italian espresso maker Saeco to add a full range of fully automatic espresso makers to their portfolio, as well as a cooperation with coffee brewer Lavazza and its capsule system. Recently, the drip filter system regained some popularity. People started talking about slow coffee and the strong points of filter coffee (you can switch between different coffees and you can make a big pot) were suddenly remembered. Drip filter makers with built-in bean grinders are selling well, with good margins.
So to combine high margins of pre-packaged coffee with new sales of coffee makers, Philips and partner Douwe Egberts (formerly part of Sara Lee) designed the Senseo Sarista system. It consists of cartridges or bean-funnels containing coffee beans for 20 cups. The funnel is placed on top of the machine, and with a press of a button the beans are grinded and the coffee is produced, automagically. You can remove the funnel and it closes itself, so you can have different coffee tastes in stock, including decaf. At its introduction (October, in the Netherlands) there will be two machines, the Pearl White and the Deep Black, the latter having adjustable coffee strength and a thermal carafe. The beans will be sold for about 5 € (about 20 servings), just a bit below Nespresso prices, and still far above normal coffee. The machines will go for € 249 and € 298 respectively.
For the consumer market, bean capsules are new. For the professional market, not so much. Before WWII (1934 for Europeans), Italian coffee grinders usually created a 3kg tin can with coffee beans, filled with inert gas (nitrogen) instead of pressurized air. You can mount the tin on your coffee grinder, keeping the beans fresher than any other storage system.
French Reservoir Washing
A few years ago, BSH presented new dishwashers where water usage went down from 10 to 7 liters. This was achieved by mounting a special reservoir where the water from the last rinse was stored and re-used for the first pre-cleaning cycle. Now, Spanish-French FagorBrandt copied the trick for a new washer. Of course the last rinsing water is practically clean (maybe some detergent residuals) so no problem here to use it for the next main cleaning. The reservoir has and 8.5-liter capacity and allows for savings up to 15 percent, as the average water use for a horizontal-drum machine is about 50 liters. Brandt offers the system in a typical French horizontal-axis top loader washer, unlike the standard European front loading washer type. Europeans don’t use the U.S. agitator system or the Asian top-loader with a disc. The top loader has a smaller footprint (some models are just 45 cm wide). One of main drivers for such strange design is the small apartment size in Paris, where a front-loader is just too big for the narrow closet and bathroom spaces reserved for washers.
In the new Brandt the water reservoir is made of soft plastic and mounted outside, on the front of the machine, as there was no room inside because of the small footprint. There is also a smart grid feature built in. The machine searches over the mains connection if a smart meter, provided by EDF (Electricité de France, the state-run power company) can be found and looks for the cheaper hours.
Brandt used to be a French brand until Spanish Fagor took over in 2005. Fagor is part of MCC, a really fascinating industrial conglomerate as it is a co-operative, owned by the workers. Even in Europe, where socialism and communism were invented and disappeared, this is highly unusual. MCC means Mondragón Co-operative Corporation, where Mondragón is the birthplace of the company. The co-operative system operates until this day through a participation system where workers can buy a share and participate in decisions through a general assembly, which gathers in a co-operative congress. The location is also interesting, as it is Basque Country, in the north of Spain, next to France. Here the iron ore mines, exporting to the U.K., inspired industrial development due to knowledge transfer back from Great Britain. To this date this region is the most industrialized in Spain. Another fascinating fact from MCC is that the original founding father was a priest, named José María Arizmendiarrieta. He set up an technical university during WWII, and out of that many co-operatives developed during the sixties, which finally led to the creation of MCC. That co-op now has just over 100K staff in four divisions (financial, retail, industry and knowledge). It is the fourth-largest industrial group in Spain. Just a bit of socialism is left at MCC, as wages for workers are higher than average and the brass earns less, however that difference is softened by Spain’s highly progressive income tax tariffs.