Cimbali on supercharging automatics


Head of Gruppo Cimbali’s Asia Pacific subsidiary Millie Chan talks about the evolution of super automatic machines and how its traditional demographic is expanding to meet market needs.

When Millie Chan worked in the food service industry for German cooking appliance supplier Rational International for 12 years, the name La Cimbali was synonymous with automated hotel and restaurant coffee machines such as the 1969 Superbar and later the M50 La Cimbali Dolcevita workhorse.

Fast forward to Chan’s new front-of-house role as Gruppo Cimbali Regional Director Asia & Pacific, and she is once again connected to the food and beverage industry with La Cimbali’s new generation of super automatic machines.

“The market for super automatic models has certainly evolved and there is a resurgence to the machine category in ways we haven’t seen before,” Chan says. “On the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, labour is getting more expensive in markets such as Australia, Korea, Japan, and China, and as a result, we’re starting to see strong interest in super automatic machines because of their reliability and level of convenience in the workplace.”

In 2021, a large international bank wanting to improve its coffee offering for employees contacted Chan for guidance. Recognising the need to incentivise the office space after a period of remote working, Chan proposed the La Cimbali S15 as the ideal machine to cater to the company’s needs.

“Prior to working with Gruppo Cimbali, the bank’s office staff of discerning bankers would walk down 50 flights of stairs to a nearby specialty café, which equated to half an hour of lost work time, multiplied by 5000 employees. When I proposed the S15 and its comparable output to what is produced in a specialty café, it just made sense,” Chan says.

The multinational company now has S15s integrated into its Korea and China offices, and soon Thailand as well.

The S15 is the latest addition to La Cimbali’s super automatic range. This flexible and smart model is compact, intuitive and serves up to 150 cups per day via 96 recipes. It features a new grinder, two-litre boiler capacity and can dispense hot foamed milk via an integrated soluble system. It also offers the benefits of IoT technology, and can be managed and customised remotely via the Cup4You App via tablet or smartphone.

For Gruppo Cimbali, 2020 and 2021 have resulted in strong market results despite the challenges of the global pandemic. Chan says such growth is largely attributed to the strength of Gruppo Cimbali’s products, team, partner relationships, and the fact that coffee remains one of the fastest growing industries in the food and beverage sector.

“With the opening up of certain markets and border arrangements, there is pent-up demand and desire to entertain and socialise through coffee. In the majority of markets, businesses and investors are forging ahead and accelerating conversations about the need for quality coffee, which has resulted in strong demand from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, even Singapore,” Chan says.

The reason for such uptake, Chan says, is thanks to young, middle-class millennials discovering coffee as a social beverage.

“The number of coffee drinkers in China is less than the United States, so you can imagine the potential to capture that market over the next 10 years. Indonesia, with a population of some 275 million, is another market of interest, which is easily five years behind China in terms of coffee consumption,” Chan says.

For new players in the market, Chan is determined to position Gruppo Cimbali as a leading espresso machine manufacturer that cements quality in its technology, production, after sales support, and partner relationships. For former customers, Chan is committed to reigniting the conversation that Gruppo Cimbali is a serious market player in the super automatic division.

“We lost our traction for many years in the Asia Pacific. No one knew who we were as a brand and business. Now, we’re once again in the thick of conversations and large customers such as chains and petrol stations are coming back to us and giving us a chance,” she says.

Chan joined Gruppo Cimbali in early 2020 with the intention to help rebuild, reorganise and relaunch Gruppo Cimbali’s brands in the Asia Pacific, and regain market share as one of the leading manufacturers in the Asia Pacific.

“My second year in 2021 was about consolidation and stabilisation, which has allowed us to reap the benefits. We have started to win back the trust of our business partners, and to give them the proper support with people on the ground who understand their needs,” Chan says.

With a broad range of coverage from Korea to Indonesia and Australia to Vietnam, Chan says each market has its own requirements but the one commonality, is the need for choice and quality at a consistent level.

“The market is demanding skill base, consistency and reliability. With the current labour shortage, where people can’t find a good barista anymore or enough talent or want to grow their brand overseas in a reliable and repeatable way, the answer should be fully automatic machines,” Chan says.

“For anyone doing 150 to 600 cups a day, Gruppo Cimbali has a solution. Our machines really do deliver everything a company would want, including the ability to use IoT technology to manage the settings, recipes, and assess data regarding usage, service, maintenance, and access after sales support.”

These features are embraced in La Cimbali’s S20 Fresh Brew which can handle hot or iced brewed coffee volumes up to 200 cups per day with up to two programmed blends. The S20 with steam wand, based on the S30 platform, includes extensive customisation options thanks to its integrated soluble system, a new Milk Precision System that creates pressurised milk flow to obtain consistent milk temperatures, and bidirectional Wi-Fi to update and adjust parameters remotely.

Chan says Korea currently remains Gruppo Cimbali’s largest importer of fully automatic machines in the Asia Pacific, followed by Japan. Chan identifies China as a dynamic market of large interest because of the push for franchise coffee chains to grow fast at high capacity.

“Such companies will soon realise that they can’t grow if they rely on labour alone. They need to implement automation to achieve fast growth, and the cost per hour for staff wages will need to be considered. That’s where fully automatic machines are the ideal solution – to handle that volume, and with minimal interaction,” Chan says.

She adds that the La Cimbali S30 has been a big success in the Australian and Chinese market but is confident the S15 will be the “best in class” and most successful once customers have the chance to experiment with its capabilities.

“This is the year we will start to see the S15 integrated into larger spaces that can handle big volume. It can also be customised to adapt to the needs of the specific end customer,” Chan says.

She notes that the “ideal client” to house a super automatic machine has changed significantly from traditional demographics of hotels and drive-thru venues. Rather, Chan says the intuitive machines now have a place where skilled coffee workers are not present, yet still demand a quality offering for their customer base, such as in hospitals, cafeterias, banks, food trucks, offices, and even mobile cafés.

Technology aside, Chan says when it comes time to making a purchasing decision, Gruppo Cimbali’s legacy as a manufacturing specialist must be considered.

“We are a legacy brand. There are customers that have worked with us for their restaurant or hotel for 15 years and longer because the machine is reliable, but now, with the reorganisation of the company with new talent, direction, leadership, and a strong focus on innovation, there is a greater awareness that Gruppo Cimbali is serious contender in the super automatic segment,” Chan says.

“Word is spreading, and companies are listening. Once they see the quality behind our fully automatic machines and understand our core values, I’m confident they will be drawn to our machines for the next 100 stores they open. Watch this space.”

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This article was first published in the March/April 2022 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.

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