Some of the world’s most successful businesses are family owned. There’s supermarket giant Walmart, candy master Mars, media conglomerate News Corporation, and car manufacturer Ford Motor Company, to name a few. Perhaps it’s their natural family dynamic, or ability to be completely honest, but in the case of family-operated coffee roaster Gruppo Gimoka, located in Valtellina in the Italian region of Lombardy, Board Member Marco Padelli says the company’s success comes down to trust – and a lot of control.
“We grew up in a harmonious way, so working together with my family is easy. Of course, we have our opinions and many important discussions on strategy and vision, but my father also puts a lot of trust in me and my brother, and together we follow one goal. We are a team,” Padelli tells Global Coffee Report.
“In this family organisation, there’s certainly a big sense of responsibility toward a company of 230 employees, but I must say that the glue that sticks us together is our shared love for the job.”
In today’s competitive and sometimes punishing market, that responsibility also extends to the thousands of consumers who use Gimoka’s 2500 different products under its umbrella of brands including Galleria CaffèSi, Gran Caffè Garibaldi, and Espresso Italia.
Gimoka is one of the largest Italian companies in volume of roasted coffee, second only to Lavazza which Padelli says is 15 times bigger and “playing its own game” against Jacobs Douwe Egberts and Nestlé. The gap between Gimoka and the next 10 companies is extremely tight.
Padelli says Gimoka’s overriding advantage is its control of the supply chain, starting with the purchase of green beans and transformation of its modern systems, which not only arms the company with the industry’s cutting-edge technology, but it does so with minimum environmental impact.
Gimoka’s two Neuhaus Neotec’s RFB400 roasting machines demonstrate this sustainable commitment, roasting up to 10,000 kilograms of coffee per hour through fluid bed technology.
“Gimoka pioneered fluid bed roasting technology in Italy. We were the first to buy Neuhaus Neotec’s RFB400,” Padelli says. “In Italy, there’s a tradition of small roasters who are stuck in their ways. We wanted to be an example of a progressive Italian company. We installed the first roaster in 2012, then a second in 2019 because we’re processing 27,000 tonnes of green beans and we realised how much this technology could improve our end product. Since then, we’ve seen other roasters such as Nestlé and illycaffè change to this style of roasting too.”
Gimoka’s latest investment comes in the form of a new Opem filling machine for the production of Nespresso professional compatible disks and two Cama packaging machines.
Cama’s IF318 monobloc robotic arms works like an experienced conductor. The monobloc system separates and positions the filled capsules at a precise distance apart in set configurations. In a continous and repetitive motion, the capsules are placed in formed and open packaging boxes. They are then weighed for accuracy and checked for defects. Those that are given the tick of approval are transferred to Cama’s FW749 wrap-around case packer for shelf-ready shipment. The cycle is constant.
Gruppo Gimoka’s single-serve plants contain three active Cama packaging lines including Dolce Gusto, Caffitaly and Nespresso-compatible capsules (these registered trademarks do not belong to Gimoka or any of its affliliated companies). These Cama lines give Gimoka the ability to manufacture its products continually and at high speed, increase efficiency, and decrease packaging wastage.
Padelli says over the past three years since the commencement of Gimoka’s formal partnership with Cama, the packaging solutions provider has been flexible to the company’s evolving needs. Cama offers full support for any installation or commissioned work, and its designers offer technical advice on the best types of carboard to use for packaging options.
Single-serve stays strong
Gimoka invests a lot of resources into the development of its domestic and professional equipment across the HoReCa, office, and vending industries, for which Gimoka participates as a shareholder in two of the biggest vending operators in Italy: IVS and Dai group. It also partners with international supermarket and retail chains around the world as their main roaster supplier.
However, it is the home market where Gimoka sees its largest growth, absorbing 60 per cent of company sales, with capsule exports reaching more than 100 countries.
Padelli says the single-serve market has seen double-digit growth in Italy over the past four years, largely attributed to the export market without any loss in the internal market.
“In Italy, there’s still a lot of that old moka pot tradition, but over time it will decrease as the new generations become more experimental and break down cultural barriers, as testified by the recent successful opening of Starbucks Reserve in Milan,” Padelli says. “Single-serve is a winning system for many reasons: it assures the consumer a good and stable result in the cup, its preparation is fast and practical, it is up with the times on a worldwide point of view, and it is economically affordable. It is certainly an international phenomenon.”
Climate change and its impact on the future production of coffee remains one of the industry’s greatest challenges. At a local level, Padelli says Gimoka’s greatest obstacle is investing in product innovation in industrial processes, which now more than ever needs to be addressed in a sustainable way and contribute to a reduced environmental impact.
“We are really satisfied of the results we have achieved until now, but we can’t certainly consider the process done – our business comes from the ground, and we are all called to preserve and defend it for the future generations,” Padelli says.
He adds that Gimoka has accepted its responsibility to the environment and circular economy across its value chain from the procurement of raw materials to roasting and grinding. As such, it prescribes the recycling of materials, use of renewable energy sources, and promotes compostable products and packing solutions across its product range.
“We aim to strengthen our leadership between the main Italian roasters, growing both of our two divisions – single-serve, and roasted and ground whole beans – by proposing innovative solutions with added value in terms of our product and care for the environment,” Padelli says.
In January 2020, as part of Gimoka’s three-year investment plan of €35 million (about US$40 million), it revised its Nespresso-compatible capsules, which now contain 50 per cent less weight of plastic thanks to its co-injection process. Gimoka will roll out this new capsule from March.
“Innovation is certainly a challenge because we are not a worldwide recognised brand, so to be in the market and compete with the other players with these new smart capsules is key. If we can continue to innovate new products and processes, I’m sure we’ll continue to play our competitive role in the market,” Padelli says.
Gimoka also offers two plastic and compostable Nespresso-compatible capsules, one aluminium capsule, and bio-based industrial packaging that is oxygen-tight to retain peak freshness and easily compostable in organic trash.
Thanks to a team of internal engineers, Gimoka is committed to working with mono materials for its capsule body and lids to make recycling easier in accordance with the European Union’s 852/2018 directive that will be implemented within 2025.
“We don’t have to demonise plastic: if it is correctly managed as trash and recycled, it represents a type of accessible, functional, and sustainable material,” Padelli says. “This is the same for aluminium capsules.”
He says while each of Gimoka’s products are unique in their own right, its internally developed GM2 dual compatible “smart capsules” are a particular favourite. These capsules have seen great growth in Australia under St Remio, a brand built on transparent relationships between the grower and consumer, and a sustainable philosophy.
More than a name
Padelli’s father Ivan started Gimoka in the early 1980s with the help of his father, who owned a small coffee shop in the city centre of Lecco. Eventually, Ivan had the intuition to transform the little family activity into a thriving business.
“Ever since my brother and I were young, we knew we wanted to keep the family business going. We never had any doubt,” Padelli says. “We grew up in the company. As kids, we would play on the 70-kilogram bags of coffee beans. Our house was located on the same site as the factory and any time we wanted to go out, we had to pass through the roastery.”
After high school, Padelli moved to Milan to study economics, and then to Lugano, Switzerland to study economics and finance. It was only on an internship placement at a New York green bean trader followed by a company in Miami that Padelli got his first glimpse into what coffee as a business entailed. He later travelled to Colombia, Brazil, and Honduras to further learn about green beans and the different methods of coffee harvesting and processing.
“Travelling to origin is the best experience you can have in the coffee business,” Padelli says. “If you don’t appreciate raw product and where it comes from, we can’t do our job properly as roasters.”
Padelli officially joined the family company in January 2016 as a business analyst, later becoming a shareholder and a member of the Board of Directors. He coordinates commercial relationships while his brother Davide is in charge of industrial operations and the financial department. His father Ivan is Group President. He supervises the purchase of green beans and maintains client relationships throughout the supply chain, a value instilled by his father.
At just 29 years of age, Padelli says he has a lot to learn, but is proud of what the company has achieved and the direction it’s headed.
“Success to Gimoka is the ability to grow, respond to the business expectations of our partners and customers, and offer a wide range of blends and complete packaging solutions, not only on current trends, but on future ones,” Padelli says.
“2020 is going to be our year. We will consolidate the acquisition of Univerciok, a powder manufacturing company that will complete our product range, and we will open in new markets, as well as two new branches abroad in Australia and Poland. Entering these markets will be our next challenge, but we’re ready for it. The best thing about coffee is that it has no borders and no boundaries.”