February 18, 2010 – Lavazza is synonymous with great Italian coffee; Emilio Lavazza entered the family business founded by his grandfather in 1955. In 1971 Mr. Lavazza became CEO of Luigi Lavazza SpA.
Starting out delivering coffee door-to-door to restaurants around Turin where his grandfather ran a grocery store in 1895, he took over as chairman in 1979 until 2008.
After WWII Lavazza became a national brand. An innovator, in 1970 Mr. Lavazza had the idea of vacuum-sealing packages for export, something nearly all coffee companies do today.
In Turin at a coffee laboratory Lavazza developed coffee capsules for single cup brewing, another idea he pioneered. He also developed technical innovations in roasting and vending.
Signor Emilio as he was affectionately referred to by his employees was a believer in advertising and television and invested heavily bringing the Turin-based firm into new markets in other countries.
In the 1960’s he developed the characters Carmencita and Caballero in a popular Italian television ad campaign. He later went on to feature Luciano Pavarotti and movie star Nino Manfredi in award-winning ads. Always on the cutting edge, the company produces an annual calendar with shots by Annie Leibovitz and Helmut Newton.
Because of this belief in advertising Lavazza has 48 percent of the Italian retail coffee market and operations in countries like India and Brazil. Brewed in more than 90 countries, it is the sixth largest coffee roaster of green coffee. Sales are forecast at more than 1.1 billion euros or USD $1.5 billion in 2009.
In 1991 Mr Lavazza was knighted and since has been known as the “King of Coffee” in Italy. He lived all of his life in Turin, home of such famous families as Fiat’s Agnelli and Nutella’s Ferrero. The company is still privately held and the fourth generation is in place to take the helm.
A very private man, Mr. Lavazza was quoted in a rare interview in 2003 to say his passions were fishing, jazz and collecting toy soldiers. He also loved murder mysteries and authored two of them himself.