Melitta celebrates 111 years of passion

Melitta celebrates an unusual milestone that highlights its longevity and experience in filter coffee.

Many great inventions began as simple ideas that people just hadn’t thought of before.

In 1908, Melitta Bentz was tired of getting a bitter taste and coffee grounds stuck in her teeth from drinking Turkish coffee, so she took a piece of her son’s blotting paper and used it to filter them out of her morning brew. Bentz patented this concept of coffee filter paper and the company Melitta was born.

Melitta Professional now offers a complete coffee solution, including not only filter paper but roasted coffee, ancillary beverages, porcelain cups, and automatic machines. While perhaps best known for the latter, Oliver Welschar, Head of Global Key Account Management, says filter coffee is still at the heart of the company. This is most prominent in its latest model, the Cafina XT8-F.

“Our bedrock is a long experience with filter coffee. We see a huge demand from many countries where filter coffee is the go-to for an automatic machine that can produce it in large volumes,” Welschar says.

“The XT8-F offers this, being capable of producing 500 cups of freshly brewed coffee per hour coming from a small, nicely designed machine.”

First unveiled in late 2018, the XT8-F has seen a limited release in filter coffee-focused countries, particularly in the Nordic region.

“The further away from the equator you go, the higher consumption of filter coffee tends to be, so those are really our target markets for the XT8-F,” Welschar says.

“However, we are becoming an increasingly globalised society. People are travelling for business or pleasure all around the world, and whether you’re passing through India or are an expat in Shanghai, there is still a market for specific drinks that aren’t necessarily common in an area.”

The Melitta Cafina XT8-F shares its build with the XT8 bean-to-cup model, featuring an aluminium casing and slim 35-centimetre width. A 10.4-inch touchscreen display is used to operate the machine, while a height-adjustable zinc outlet dispenses coffee. The hopper accommodates three kilograms of ground filter coffee, an amount Welschar says is convenient while ensuring coffee remains fresh.

“The response so far to the XT8-F has been great. There has been a particularly strong demand from hotels, as well as canteen or catering businesses. Then further north, in countries like Finland, it’s being put into service stations and convenience stores. But we’re also seeing interest from other niche industries which want to serve filter – cruise ships and ferries, for example,” Welschar says.

“But we’ll only launch something once we have full trust it can work on large scale without causing issues, and people in the industry appreciate our approach. First we lay the egg, then we make the noise.”

The XT8-F was the crown jewel of Melitta’s presentation at Host Milano in October, where the company also celebrated its 111 year anniversary. While not an anniversary usually celebrated, Welschar says it highlights the experience of the brand.

“After 111 years, we can proudly wave the flag and say, ‘we’re still here, larger than ever before, and still family-owned and run’,” he says. “At the same time, we’re not stuck in our ways and have used that knowledge to continue to innovate.

“Not many companies have as long and varied experience in coffee as Melitta. Through filter paper, household coffee machines, and roasteries, all of our business revolves around coffee and that knowledge is shared throughout the company.”

Melitta’s continued growth is best represented by the 2018 opening of a new production and logistics facility in Minden, Germany. Spread over three floors totalling 17,000 square metres, the site houses 230 employees, and assembly lines for each product line as well as one for add-ons, and 40 partially automated test stations.

Welschar says consolidating Melitta’s production operations, which were previously spread across Germany and Switzerland, has increased connections and communication across the business.

“For the first time, all of our production lines are under one roof, only a stone’s throw away from our corporate headquarters,” Welschar says.

“The team feeling is completely different – it’s like we’ve reconnected to the family. As a global sales guy, I can now walk our customers through the site every time we meet. In the past, we’d have to travel back and forth from Switzerland. A lot of our salespeople had never actually seen the production before, and the people on the production line didn’t meet customers. The move has set us up for the future growth of the company.”

Bringing the production lines together has also improved design consistency across Melitta’s product portfolio.

“The longest distance between two divisions is now 500 metres. One of the downsides of having our operations spread out in the past was it meant our models didn’t follow a unified design,” Welschar says. “Now, they carry a unified corporate identity. You could put each of our machines in a line and they will all look like they belong.”

This level of consistency extends past Melitta’s designs to the performance of its machines. Welschar says automation is beneficial to maintaining a level of quality across multiple venues and locations.

“The moment you have to rely on changing variables, you need to bring consistency to processes. For example, staff members can use different amounts of coffee, or follow different recipes, and you can’t guarantee the same result,” he says.

“As a business owner, you need to know what is in the cup and on the other end, the customer needs to know they will experience a great drink. With a fully automatic, Melitta in particular, it’s possible to check how many grams of coffee go in every cup, telemetry is used to monitor all of the processes, and above all, the customer on other side of counter can enjoy their drink, come back, and have the same product again.”

While Welschar says some consumers believe that automatic machines aren’t as “romantic” as traditional espresso or filter models, this perception is changing as the machines become more advanced.

“When general consumers see an automatic machine, sometimes there’s a presumption the coffee won’t taste as good, and that comes from a heritage of plastic vending machines using stale coffee and powdered milk. That’s not the case anymore,” Welschar says.

“Our blind testings, with people who don’t know which coffee comes from a super automatic, rate it as superior. Quality in the cup is ultimately what we aim for in Melitta, and it can only be achieved with a huge, century-long understanding of coffee.”

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