Lavazza and its cultural heritage


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2015)

What would Italy be without its renowned Lavazza coffee? The company founded in 1895 with its headquarters in Turin has been in ownership of the family for four generations. As one of the most significant coffee roasters in the world, it owns a market share of almost 45 percent of Italian retail. A success which Francesca Lavazza‘s grandfather can be thanked for. With hard work, courage and the right sense of taste, he laid the cornerstone for the worldwide thirst for this brown gold. Today, Giuseppe, Marco, Antonella, Manuela and Francesca make up the fourth generation of the traditional company. Aware of its history, the company management is influenced by future orientation in view of continuity. We spoke to Francesca about her role and the responsibility connected with this.

You are the fourth generation of the family to keep up the heritage of your great-grandfather Luigi who founded Lavazza in 1895. Why did you choose the area of corporate image to be your favourite?

I’ve made my career out of my creative spirit, while keeping in mind my great-grandfather’s commitment and honouring his heritage. After working for many years at the advertising agency Armando Testa, I moved to New York to take screenwriting courses at the New York Film Academy. When I returned to Italy in 2001, I aligned my professional talents with the company’s strategic corporate objectives, and have been taking charge of the group’s corporate image since July 2005.  My passions — screenwriting, photography and design — have often been combined with the company’s communication strategies, as demonstrated by the Lavazza Calendar project, the many art and photographic exhibitions that the company has supported in recent years, and the international design-related events that the company has promoted and supported throughout the decades.

What does it mean to you to be able to carry on the vision of your great-grandfather?

At that time, starting out from a small shop in Turin, my great-grandfather Luigi Lavazza opened up Lavazza to the world with a recognisable identity, unifying its experience, work and cultural heritage to the cultural and productive heritage of every country it’s gone on to. This is what internationality means: not just a commercial and economic expansion, but a vision in which the past - history, values and tradition - is always ready to renew itself and is the basis for the construction of the future. Together with Lavazza, with a cup, a blend or an aroma, Italy has travelled and still travels throughout the world, bringing with it rituals, tastes and atmospheres.

This is why for Lavazza, expansion means both memory and, at the same time, curiosity and innovation. Moving forwards: this underlies the care that Lavazza continues to put into creating new products that give everybody, everywhere, an experience that shares pleasure and knowledge. The bond that Lavazza shares with communications languages, design and art, particularly contemporary art, is engraved in our DNA. The passion for style and innovation has led us to create a language that is recognisable throughout the world, and reflects the power and constant research that have accompanied us on this long journey. This is why it is natural for us to invest in the promotion and conservation of a cultural heritage.  

In this regard, how important is it to you to unite the future with tradition?

Lavazza’s history dates back more than a century, and it is a story of passion, curiosity, entrepreneurship and success. It is a history that we have written and lived with intensity through four generations, of which I represent the latest. From coffee production to packaging to communication, right up to the most advanced technological products, Lavazza has never been afraid to take risks. What it has meant for the company, is expanding coffee culture and enhancing the brand with new meanings. This has always been Lavazza’s pioneering vision that, since 1895, has distinguished itself thanks to its underlying spirit of innovation.

Every year an unbelievable 17 billion cups of Lavazza coffee are drunk worldwide. What does ‘their’ Lavazza coffee mean to the Italians in particular?   

Coffee is an accessible product, a symbol of integration and sharing. For this reason, Lavazza has never stopped confronting itself with technological evolution and its consumers’ requests. At once dynamic and open, Lavazza has enhanced its competence and scientific research, guaranteeing quality and minimising the environmental impact of its operations. Quality and research: elements that have inspired and still inspire the course of innovation that the company is following.

From communications to services, every element that characterises the company keeps on tending towards the future. The sign of a global vision in which tradition and innovation mix in the pursuit of a single objective: to offer the best quality coffee to consumers in the world.

In 1946 Aerostudio Borghi from Milan designed the first Lavazza logo, which was also printed on sacks of roast coffee. A couple of years later the final touches and further developments were made to the image via targeted advertising campaigns and appropriate marketing. How much of a challenge was it back then to establish an international brand?   

Lavazza has always been a company with an innovative approach to advertising and communication. Aerostudio Borghi created the first corporate trademark, one year after the end of the Second World War in 1946 and this was the first major effort to make the brand immediately recognisable for shopkeepers and end consumers. The brand image strategies applied by the company during its early years were pioneering for Italy, even at that time. Then came the advertising era, thanks to the cooperation with Armando Testa and his creative agency, that began in 1958 with the Paulista campaign, starting in Italy with the first TV commercials, using characters Caballero and Carmencita as testimonials, to move forward to actor Nino Manfredi and to the ‘Paradiso’, one of the most loved Italian ADV campaigns, as well as the collaborations from 1993 with leading photographers on the international project of the Lavazza Calendars.  The Lavazza Calendars have represented for many years the international communication of the company abroad, and still the images of our calendars are protagonists for some of our global projects.

In 2015 we launched the most extensive international communication campaign in our history as part of our 120th anniversary celebrations, ‘IN LIFE, THERE’S ALWAYS MORE TO TASTE’. Our aim is to tell the story of tradition and innovation, of research and passion embodied in every single one of the over 17 billion cups of Lavazza coffee enjoyed per year worldwide. It is the same story that encouraged our founder Luigi Lavazza to discover the countries where coffee is grown and to develop the concept of blending, which revolutionised the sector by offering it a new world of aromas and flavour.

How are you dealing with the topic of corporate identity in 2015?   

Lavazza is always on the continuous search for new suggestions, by working on communication with the same intensity that the company has in all sectors. We have new international and Italian communications projects to launch, with the aim of bringing our consumers into new creative territories and offer an unconventional and unique brand experience. 

How do you overcome the challenges of digital transformation?     

Digital transformation is something that every company is dealing with. It is also a natural evolution of communication. It is not always easy, but it represents a new frontier today: Lavazza has believed in this transformation, and our efforts are in the direction of using this major change as a tool for representing our cultural and value models, and to position Lavazza as one of Italy’s most recognisable icons around the world.

In order to cement your connection to your homeland, the Innovation Center has been located on the site of the historical Lavazza works in Turin since October 2010.  This is where all your company’s innovative ideas are united in one location. How exactly should we imagine this place of research and design to be?

In 2010 Lavazza opened the Innovation Center, a completely reconceived section of the historic Turin production plant, intended to act as a unique landmark for our projects dealing with innovation, both in terms of products and processes. The new centre is also home for the Research & Development department, Design, Machine & Systems Engineering division, as well as the Training Center. Today, the Lavazza Training Center - born from the Luigi Lavazza Center for Study and Research on coffee in 1979 - is an international network with more than 50 coffee schools throughout the world, which train 30,000 people each year. Our Innovation Center is a concrete example of the values that Lavazza aims for: ethical and economic sustainability, commitment, integrity and responsibility. Our entrepreneurial vision has been guided by these values which continue to be our light, also on the field of continuous improvement and research. 

The brand Lavazza by no means only represents the successful unification of tradition and modernity. Even its annual photo calendar has reached cult status. The first almanac came out in 1993 with photography by Helmut Newton. How did you come up with the idea of such a project and what message was it to convey?

The first Lavazza Calendar was published in 1993 and shot by Helmut Newton. This was the start of a thrilling journey, based on the special relationship between photography and Lavazza coffee. Both are children of our age, generators of energy, and they are seductive: although they are consumed quickly, the pleasure they offer continues like a delightful aftertaste. The calendar quickly became a sought-after and precious collector’s item, a leading player in Lavazza’s international communications, with the top photographers taking turns behind the camera.

Your calendar is one of your most important communication instruments, which exclusively top photographers are able to take pictures for. What title have you thought out for 2016 and what is the story behind it?

This year Lavazza presented ‘From Father to Son’, the new 2016 Calendar produced in partnership with Slow Food and realised by the young Canadian photographer Joey L. The subjects of his photographs are the #Earthdefenders: modern heroes of the Earth who, thanks to their fathers’ teachings, defend biodiversity and promote sustainable development. The photographic reportage, shot in Central and South America, represents the natural evolution of the 2015 Lavazza Calendar. The 2016 Lavazza Calendar ‘From Father to Son’ took his inspiration from Steve McCurry’s African portraits (in the 2015 Lavazza Calendar) and explores, through the 13 photographs shot by  Joey L., the rites and customs of the new generation of Earth Defenders in Central and South America. They are young men and women portrayed with their fathers, who every day, drawing on lessons handed down from one generation to the next, defend biodiversity and their plants and crops without wasting resources, for the benefit of the local community.

Innovating while respecting tradition. This is the recipe of thousands of young farmers in South America, Africa and the world over, who have accepted the baton passed on to them by their fathers and now hold the future of the earth in their hands. 

Is it conceivable that you would ever choose a different media than photography?

Lavazza has explored very different languages in recent years: from visual arts to cutting edge design. We have constantly searched for new ways to reach our consumers: from social media to videos, from digital art to design. Lavazza has always considered communication as a living field to experiment contemporary languages, and for sure the company will write new pages in the future.

How can one of these sought-after collector’s items be purchased?

For the first time, the 2015 Lavazza Calendar has been sold as a limited edition to support the Slow Food project ‘10,000 Gardens in Africa’. Also the 2016 edition is sold as a limited edition, precisely to support the Terra Madre Giovani project, in Italy (available on the Slow Food website).

In addition to strengthening your market position, how important is a strategical and long-term commitment to the protection of the people who work for you as well as the environment?

Over the course of four generations, the Lavazza family’s values and its business approach have been transmitted consistently and enthusiastically to workers and now represent shared values among those working for the company. Our tradition of transferring professional skills from experts to new employees has become systemic with the establishment of structured courses and tools for professional training and development. Above all, Lavazza has always been careful about the cultural, environmental and human heritage of the countries it works in, always aiming to spread the quality, taste and ritual of coffee in the constant respect of the environment. Awareness that is also a concrete commitment and therefore a continuous support of organisations that are active in this field. An example of its dynamism is the birth of the Lavazza Foundation in 2004 that manages projects in the field of sustainability mainly in coffee producing countries, with a particular regard towards the children. Lavazza has grown by developing its own attention, which has changed into a concrete course of corporate sustainability: search for shared solutions, respect for cultural identities, the conception of ideas and projects to safeguard the environment. Key elements in the construction of course that doesn’t only aim to conserve a heritage of values, but also aims each day to find new ones, mixing the search for taste with an attention for well-being and quality of life.

How would you ideally like the future of your company to look? What desire for change do you have? 

For Lavazza, tradition is not conservation of the past, but strength, resistance in the difficult times, the ability to set out again and reinvent ourselves. A vision of the world that includes all of the necessary elements to plan the future. The value given to family, the depth and solidity of roots, the sense of heritage that is constantly renewed: tradition means foundations and it is on these foundations that Lavazza has built its present and imagines its future. Our next upcoming project is Nuvola (Cloud), the new Lavazza headquarters in Turin which will be inaugurated in 2016, as a bridge between our past 120 years to the next 120! 

Designed by Architect Cino Zucchi, the new premises respects the highest sustainability and innovation criteria and is candidate for the LEED® Gold certification. This location is in line with sustainable principles. The new headquarters will be opened in an old industrial area, bringing new life to the district by preserving historically and architecturally valuable existing buildings. The design also includes a garden, a public underground car park as well as the Lavazza Museum, an innovative event area, a restaurant and the corporate historical archive. Lavazza aims to make a strong urban statement and, at the same time, to create a functional and innovative workplace for more than 500 employees. The new Lavazza office spaces are designed to promote new ways of working that stimulate teamwork, encourage the exchange of information, and strengthen multifunctionality with a view to fostering innovation and continuous improvement. 

The district that will house the new Lavazza headquarters is also home to the IAAD (Institute of Applied Arts and Design), where over 400 young creative talents are enrolled in a university level course. When the project is completed, more than 1,000 people every day will breathe life into this new area of Turin. The project also includes one of Torino’s first smart streets with low energy LED lighting and free wifi, as well as greenery, benches and bicycle racks, creating a meeting space at the service of the university and the district. The new headquarters will be the place which, for my family and Lavazza future generations, we will call home.

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Picture credit © Lavazza

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