When they created Nespresso in 1986, management at Swiss multinational Nestlé came up with a simple but bold concept: from that moment on, anyone would be able to enjoy an espresso in their own home, topped with a smooth white foam whose taste would compare to anything served by a barista.
This objective led to the invention of coffee capsules. They turned the market on its head. Today, Nespresso is in 62 countries, with 390 boutiques and 10,500 employees.
Such phenomenal success did not come overnight, however, and depends on years of research by experts who meet with coffee growers and test the very best “green” coffee, the name given to natural, unroasted coffee beans. Among its partners, Nespresso now has 63,000 coffee growers in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, and Mexico.
“Capsules were painstakingly developed until the result was a perfect cup of coffee,” explains France’s Jean-Luc Valleix, president at Nestlé Nespresso Canada since 2014. Valleix remembers his first coffee vividly. “Just think, I had never had a coffee in my life before being hired by Nespresso. When the company launched in France in 1991, I fell in love with the brand and I haven’t lost any of my enthusiasm since.” For years, he has followed his employer’s slogan to the letter, savouring every cup. And does he remember the best cup of coffee he ever had? “It was in 1995, St. Mark’s Square, Venice, at a Grands Crus wine and coffee tasting,” he recalls.
Today, he couldn’t go without his daily indulgence. “My life without coffee would be bland and colourless. For me, it represents pleasure, sharing, travelling.” Limitless potential
In 2009, the company established itself in North America, opening a first boutique on Rue Crescent in Montréal, the city with the biggest number of Nespresso drinkers in Canada. The move also targeted the United States and its market of $5 billion in sales. “Capsule coffee consumption is very low there compared to coffee consumption in general,” Nespresso boss Jean-Marc Duvoisin told Le Temps of Switzerland in a rare interview last year.
Nespresso is already present across Europe and busy winning over Africa with the opening in June of a new boutique in Dakar, Senegal, while the company also has an eye on markets in Germany, Italy, Britain, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
For several years now, the company has been flirting with the world’s finest chefs. “My favourite coffee recipe,” says Jean-Luc Valleix, “is the legendary Speculoos treat created by Michel Rotz, once chef at the Ritz Paris,” notes Jean-Luc Valleix. Over 400 chefs from the world’s leading restaurants are currently taking part in Nespresso’s Chef Academy program, with contestants having to concoct mouth-watering dishes based on one vital ingredient: coffee.
An online petition is calling on Nestlé-Nespresso to put an end to pollution caused by its non-biodegradable capsules. In 2012, 27 billion capsules were thrown away, according to the petition’s website. Valleix doesn’t comment on the numbers. “As the industry leader, we are well aware of our role,” he says. “Worldwide, we are able to recycle 80% of capsules we sell that are made from aluminum.”
Capsules can also be returned to Nespresso Boutiques. “In Québec,” he adds, “we are working on a pilot project that will lead to a more effective way to recycle capsules.” Other initiatives are also in the works.
Recycling is made possible by Nespresso Club members, showing the loyalty upon which the company’s success has been built. Nespresso uses the club to stay in touch with millions of consumers 24/7, getting a feel for their needs and preferences. It is this focus on excellence—and no doubt generous appearance fees—that convinced actors George Clooney and Jean Dujardin to star together in a Nespresso commercial that went viral. “They share our vision, while adding a touch of humour,” says Valleix. “Both actors are constantly looking to be at the top of their game.” In the future, the company plans to offer perfect-tasting coffee and build the world’s most innovative coffee machine. Nothing less will do.
By Annie Bourque