Gruppo Cimbali GM on the company’s process of renewal

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Gruppo Cimbali General Manager Enrico Bracesco talks about leading the company through a process of renewal, his strategy for international expansion, and how to maintain the cultural identity of the 110-year-old company.

For the third time in his life, Enrico Bracesco made a career change in May 2019 when he joined Gruppo Cimbali as Chief Commercial Officer to help coordinate the business strategy of the company’s four brands: LaCimbali, Faema, Slayer, and Casadio.

An industrial engineer by trade with a degree in engineering management and a master’s degree from the London Business School, Bracesco held managerial positions with multinational companies in the air conditioning and renewable energies sector, and fitness equipment industry, before coffee came calling.   

“It was a bit daunting at the beginning, but in hindsight it was the best step I could have made. A common trait in all three industries is that the product has always been technical with a big element of service and asset management in the offering. But the passion, drive, and element of pleasure you find in the coffee industry is something you don’t find anywhere else,” Bracesco says. 

From the outset, Bracesco’s perception of Gruppo Cimbali was “a manufacturer of premium brands with global brand awareness and a quintessential Made in Italy company”, and he wasn’t wrong. 

Since 1912, the company has been a leader in the design and production of professional espresso machines and coffee shop equipment. It operates through three production plants in Italy and one in the United States, employing around 700 staff.

“Gruppo Cimbali embraces the perfect mix of product, technology, tradition and history, and is a classic example of a company that dives into the future with innovation but at the same time keeps connected to its tradition and roots,” Bracesco says.

To lead the company into its next stage of development, Bracesco was appointed General Manager of Gruppo Cimbali on 1 September 2021. At the same time, Andrea Clerici took on the role of Group Commercial Director. 

“I was preparing for this role for a while, but once the pandemic hit, I thought it would become even more challenging. It sounds like a paradox, but one of the benefits of the pandemic was the extra time we had to reflect and prepare for the next phase. We reflected upon who we are, what we have been doing well, what we have been missing, and how to project new trajectories and capture new trends,” Bracesco says.

Now, with a solid investment platform for all four brands – each in distinctive markets in terms of its target customer and value proposition – Gruppo Cimbali is ready to diversify its product range and services.

With 85 per cent of Gruppo Cimbali’s revenue made abroad, Bracesco is keen to strengthen its market position with international expansion into the Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Americas.

“The name of the game is defending our high market share. We’re already big in Europe, but at the same time, we recognise there’s much more room for growth for our brands internationally in key areas,” he says. 

Gruppo Cimbali is represented in 130 countries and has 12 subsidiaries across the United States, China, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Australia as of Q1 2022. Where it does not have a direct presence, it seals exclusive agreements with strong international partners that represent and distribute its brands. Currently, Gruppo Cimbali has more than 700 distributor agreements in place.

“We recognise the high potential of the market and want to keep close and connected so we can best understand cultural trends and integrate them into our product development,” Bracesco says. 

What will be pivotal to maintain throughout Gruppo Cimbali’s global expansion, Bracesco adds, is the deep connection the company has to its Italian roots.

“If you are fast paced in innovation, it’s easy to lose track of where you come from. We must always remain true to our core values and the market where everything started. It’s part of our identity,” he says.

Also part of its identity is Gruppo Cimbali’s design strategy, which Bracesco says has always been predominant. Gruppo Cimbali remains the only company in the coffee industry to be awarded the prestigious Compasso d’Oro, or ‘Golden compass’, industrial design award in 1962 for its Pitagora coffee machine.

“The company holds great pride for its award-winning products of high design and innovative technology that embrace the Made in Italy foundation. Being ambassadors of Made in Italy allows us to be in touch with our regions and connected to our values, which is priceless for a company that is well known internationally. Our attention to design together with our obsession for performance are part of our DNA,” Bracesco says.

These qualities are evident in Gruppo Cimbali’s release of the Faemina one-group espresso machine as part of the company’s strategy to emerge in sectors it wasn’t fully operational in before.

Gruppo Cimbali came close to releasing the model in the 1980s before deciding to focus on the professional sector. However, since the pandemic and accelerated consumption of coffee at-home, Bracesco says it was hard to look past the demand and launched the product at Milan Design Week in September 2021.

“Our customers and partners have been repeatedly asking Gruppo Cimbali to offer a solution for the at-home and high-end premium professional segment. We recognise we’re not the first to launch into this space, but when we decide to do something, we try to do it well and properly,” Bracesco says.

“It’s still a competitive market. What’s critical for a company like ours, across all our brands at different extents, is to drive automation. Our customers are facing pressure to do more in less time. As a result, there’s demand for simple intuitive interfaces, strengthened milk systems in our fully automatic models, valuable data on consumer insights, and functions that allow multiple operations at the same time.” 

Gruppo Cimbali also plans to invest in a stronger and larger ecosystem for its products. It aims to partner with third party companies to create a seamless experience in terms of remote-control access and contactless functionality of products, cloud-based preventative maintenance, and a range of accessible service solutions via digital connectivity.

“Connectivity is absolutely critical. It’s something we would like to work more on moving forward, and something that will be present to different extents across all brands, but predominately in Faema and LaCimbali where the penetration within large operators is big,” Bracesco says.

“You drive change through innovation, technology, and by proposing state-of-the-art solutions to the market. You also drive change through setting standards.”

Such standards extend to Gruppo Cimbali’s sustainability program, which embody four key principles: People, through inclusion and diversity; Products, via recyclability and use of eco-friendly materials; Planet, by using energy-saving and renewable sources in production; and Partnership, by using different stakeholders to accelerate change.

“We want to play a strong part in the market for sustainability because we have a responsibility to set an example. Our customers look to Gruppo Cimbali for the quality of products we offer but they also expect very high standards. We want to be transparent in showing the market those standards are above a certain level. That, coupled with our constant quest for innovation and obsession for quality, is what I believe makes us a driver of change.”

Bracesco is determined to lead Gruppo Cimbali into the next phase of its development. He says the biggest challenge will be his ability to translate Gruppo Cimbali’s long-term vision into daily operations and gain traction with customers, but is confident the talent of his dedicated team is placing the company in the best position to succeed. 

“I am so grateful for the team I work with at Cimbali Group – first class people who are passionate about the business and make it possible to launch new products and solutions in such a short timeframe,” he says. “The team acknowledge there is a long-term, ambitious vision for Cimbali Group due to our solid brand equity and investment platform – but our brands and the people of this company deserve an ambitious vision, and that’s what I intend to deliver.”

For more information, visit www.gruppocimbali.com

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

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