Melitta and the art of innovation

Melitta Bentz couldn’t have predicted that a product she invented in her kitchen would evolve into a family-owned global empire more than 100 years later. In search of a better way to make coffee in 1908, the housewife punched holes in a brass pot and used a piece of blotting paper to create a two-part filtration system. She put the pot on a cup, filled it with ground coffee and poured in hot water. Hence, the birth of the coffee filter and drip coffee. Laying the foundation for the modern pour-over and drip brewing, Bentz’s legacy has since inspired more than a century’s worth of coffee-making staples for the home, office, and food service industry. Her flagship products were also catalysts for the growth and success of Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions. As a member of Melitta group, the company is renowned for its services equipment and coffee sold through an extensive network of partners in more than 50 countries. It has operating subsidiaries in Asia-Pacific, Japan, United States, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Australia. The company’s core business is the development, manufacturing and global marketing of commercial fully automatic machines for coffee specialties and filter coffee machines under the Melitta Cafina brand, as well as after-sales service and the sale of coffee and accessories. According to Oliver Welschar, Head of Global Key Account Management and Customised Solutions, the company’s growth and success over the years is directly attributed to its commitment to exceeding customer and industry expectations through its core products. “We successfully do the same,” he says. “We’re not changing too much, we’re not trying to follow every trend. This has always been our main focus.” Since inception, the company has perfected its original products and made a strategic corporate acquisition of Cafina to develop a full range of professional coffee preparation products geared towards the food service sector. It also claims other industry product firsts such as vacuum-packed coffee packs and the bamboo coffee filter. Welschar says Melitta has remained relevant to the changing needs and expectations of consumers over the years by staying true to Bentz’s sense of innovation. “The foundation was doing something different than was being done before,” says Welschar. “We still try to think out of the box and do it differently.” With innovative technology, highly durable components and good service, Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions is a strong partner for the hospitality, restaurant and catering (HoReCa) segment. Its latest product line is a newly developed generation of fully automatic machines for coffee specialties. Customers range from leading hotels, restaurants, fast-food and coffee-shop chains, hospitals and catering companies. Welschar says it’s not easy to stand out in a sector with growing consumer expectations. “People are drinking more coffee and paying more attention to quality,” he says. “They aren’t accepting that if they travel, they don’t get proper coffee.” He says Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions has been able to stay on top of rising expectations and keep an edge on competition by offering top-tier products focused on durability and quality. “Before [clients] look for good service they look for reliability,” he says. “It’s a rough environment to work in. Equipment has to be built for that purpose.” When it comes to performance, Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions’ products can definitely hold their own.  The Melitta Cafina XT8 is one of the company’s latest in a line of fully automatic coffee machines gaining serious accolades in the sector. It offers all the product benefits of its little sister, the XT7, but plays in the premier league when it comes to speed and screen size. It brews up to 250 cups per hour and boasts a 26.4-centimetre touchscreen display. “It’s the icing on the cake of our portfolio,” says Welschar. “The XT8 was the last missing link. It’s faster and smaller than comparable machines in this range.” The machine is an unmistakable member of the XT family. It features aluminium housing, an ergonomically angled command centre, and narrow light strips on the height-adjustable, die-cast zinc outlet. Although the extra hot water performance of up to 40 litres per hour required a larger boiler, the XT8’s footprint is only marginally larger at just five extra centimetres in width and height compared to its four sisters. The larger touchscreen display allows for an even better product overview. With the batch function, users can place orders through an easier-to-use menu, then dispense beverages one after the other. “It’s basically sticking to the same production quality but faster and smaller,” says Welschar. “The main thing is not compromising the quality in the cup.” Welschar says Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions’ largest markets are in central Europe and Australia, two regions known for their sophisticated coffee cultures, as well as the United States and Far East Asia. Earlier this year, it founded a subsidiary in the latter market to realign its products and service offering. It appointed corporate veteran Justin Rejske as Managing Director to head the operational management of MPCS Australia. Welschar says that while there aren’t too many free spaces left to expand, the company is setting its sights on East Asia, South and Central America and India, which he refers to as “a sleeping giant for a long time when it comes to coffee”. “We hope to be a part of coffee’s journey in these markets,” he says. Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions is also planning to launch a new generation of automatic coffee machines next year. Welschar believes the line will help further establish the company as a leader in the HoReCa sector, particularly in hotels that provide complimentary breakfast and coffee. While third wave coffee is not a segment his company is usually associated with, Welschar says the movement’s success in increasing common consumer coffee knowledge has had a ripple effect on his own clients. “In general, more and more people are aware of coffee, know about coffee, have a specific demand about how it should taste. The more educated the consumer is, the more demanding they will be.” Melitta Professional Coffee Solutions is a leader in automatic filter coffee machines and in office coffee solutions, but Welschar admits he has noticed the craft coffee wave’s influence, with more companies wanting to offer premium food and drinks to employees. “One of the only times I’ve had to remove a machine was for a company that hired its own barista,” he says. Despite this, Welschar believes there is still an opportunity to expand in other environments where consumers expect better coffee, such as office buildings and hotel lobbies. “The more people drink coffee, the better it is for us.” And while automatic may be a trend more closely associated with second wave coffee, Welschar believes ultra convenience might be making a comeback. He was shocked and amazed to come across a booth with a super automatic machine at the Specialty Coffee Association’s event in Budapest last June. “Five years ago it would be unthinkable at this show.” Third wavers might still turn their nose up from beverages not crafted by a human, but Welschar firmly believes that good coffee is good coffee.
“I like a good espresso and I don’t care who or what makes this drink.” GCR

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