Cafetto looks back at 20 years of growth

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Cafetto reflects on a 20-year career and its devotion to developing a cleaning product range that suits every coffee machine application on the market.

It’s one thing for a business to succeed in its home market, and another feat entirely to tackle international expansion, but that’s exactly what Australian cleaning specialist Cafetto has achieved in its 20-year history.

“I’m very proud of what Cafetto has achieved. My colleagues in research and development, Christine [Song] our General Manager, Jason [Bond] our International Business Manager, and the whole team consistently do an incredible job of championing the brand. And of course, there are our wonderful customers, many whom have become absolute advocates for the brand,” says Cafetto Founder Chris Short.

He first found a gap in the market for a coffee machine cleaner when he bought his own San Marino Lisa one-group machine and Mazzer Mini grinder, and realised he needed a cleaning agent.

Deterred by the options available, Chris had the R&D team at his father’s commercial cleaning and sanitation business, Dominant, create a higher-performing formula that would clean well, rinse well, and didn’t have an unpleasant fragrance. The result, Chris says, was a “world-class espresso machine cleaner” and the subsequent development of the Cafetto brand.

It was only a matter of time before the Adelaide-based business started connecting with large Australian roasters and developing cleaning solutions in the form of tablets, sachets, and liquid cleaning products.

Chris become addicted to developing the Cafetto brand and making the best cleaning solutions possible for any coffee machine in the marketplace at an economical price.

After capturing the Australian market, New Zealand was the next pit-stop in the company’s overseas expansion, with Chris White of Altura Coffee becoming Cafetto’s first international customer in 2006, and still a loyal one today. Getting recognition and acceptance overseas was a steep hill to climb.

The catalyst for brand recognition came when Chris successfully proposed sponsorship of the World Coffee Championships in 2008, a relationship Chris has nurtured over the past 15 years. This presence on the world stage, in addition to exhibiting at international trade shows, establishing association partnerships, and building customer relationships in person, is what Cafetto credits to its growth.

To help manage more active product distribution, Cafetto established an office and warehouse in the Netherlands in 2008 to support its European customers.

“The needs of our customers change country to country depending on the popularity of coffee consumption and beverage types, and their patterns of cleaning. In Singapore and Korea for example, they have a great awareness of cleaning needs and the importance of coffee machine maintenance, but other markets are still evolving in the infancy of its learning and development,” says Cafetto General Manager Christine Song.

“Overall, however, the level of cleaning education has improved drastically over the past decade. When I started at Cafetto almost 13 years ago, I had to educate every single customer about the importance of coffee machine cleaning, and how to do it. Now the majority of markets have that awareness and come to us enquiring about the specific product that can best suit their needs.”

The Cafetto product line caters to a broad range of coffee equipment categories including traditional and automatic espresso machines, milk systems and lines, grinders, capsules, brewers, and home machines. It has also pioneered a full range of certified, organic cleaning products, and has expanded its factory to feature temperature-controlled dehumidification for quality control.

“Cafetto has expanded its range to markets across the globe, but sometimes we are also challenged to develop a product to suit the market, such as Korea, which has its own specific chemical regulations. This meant we had to totally reformulate our Korean products into a unique formula to be compliant for exporting purposes,” Christine says.

She notes Thailand also has a strict and lengthy Food and Drug Administration approval for all cleaning products entering the country, but says customers can feel assured that Cafetto’s products formulations are suitable for their market, and comply with local regulations and standards thanks to Cafetto’s own regulatory team and external consultants.

Cafetto now distributes products to more than 70 countries including Asia, Europe, the Middle East, United Kingdom, and the Americas. It’s thanks to strong relationships around the world and key distributors, that Cafetto has been able to capitalise on the booming coffee market and its high level of consumption.

“South Korea has in fact become one of our most successful markets and Aspen Enterprise (South Korea) in Asia, is one of our largest distributors of Cafetto cleaning products,” says Christine.

The plan is to further the brand’s international presence and success, and continue to work closely with businesses to develop machine-specific cleaning solutions. To do that, Chris says the company needs to stay on a path of innovation, research, and development.

“We’re building our team, and we’re also looking at new products to meet new industry trends. We always want to be at the forefront of effective and sustainable cleaning technology,” he says.

Christine adds that Cafetto has had to evolve with changing beverage trends, and currently, is seeing strong uptake for tablet products that are suited to fully automatic machines and automated milk cleaning devices.

Christine, like Chris, takes great pride in seeing Cafetto used throughout the world, and continues to be amazed at the interest and emails from countries and businesses looking for a quality cleaning product.

“Recently we added Mongolia to our client list, and Mauritius,” Christine says. “It’s a big achievement to see the product everywhere. We feel proud to see an Australian product in so many different countries. It motivates us to hit 80 countries using Cafetto product.”

Christine says it is thanks to Founder Chris’ level of commitment that the brand has evolved globally.

“It’s his passion for Cafetto that’s led out product to the world,” she says.

“I started at Cafetto working in customer service in 2011. Cafetto was still considered very young at that point, with very little presence in the international market. Then, we started getting more and more international business and I took on the role of international business development where I started actively travelling, especially to Asia to establish the Cafetto brand in those markets.”

Now company General Manager, Christine says it’s important the company continues to produce quality products, and stay available to customers.

“We are not a company dispensing product by robots. We want to talk to our customers, tell people who we are, how we can help them, and show them that we can be a point of contact to reach out to. There’s no point in just having a business that dispenses products at a rapid rate without customer service attached to it. We have to show our customers we care,” she says.

It’s this level of care along with innovation that Christine believes will sustain the business for the next 20 years, along with customer connection that continues to stagger Chris every time he travels.

“In 2017, I went into a beautiful little café in Milan and had a delicious coffee. Everywhere I go, I ask the barista what they use to clean the coffee machine. I asked this one, and they pulled out a jar of Cafetto Evo from under the cabinet. I was delighted. My product used on the other side of the world,” he says.

“I want to see the brand grow. Hopefully, I’m here for a lot longer to see it because it brings joy to my life.”

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This article was first published in the November/December 2023 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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