MILAN Oct 19 Italians aren't the biggest coffee
drinkers in Europe - that title goes to the Finns - but their
nation's link with cafe culture is etched on every menu board,
giving the world the espresso, the mocha and the latte.
Now that link is feeling the strain of recession.
As Europe's debt crisis drags on, more and more
cash-strapped Italians are giving the coffee bar a miss and
taking their morning caffeine hit in the kitchen.
"Italians are drinking more coffee at home than at the bar,"
Raffaele Brogna, the founder of consumer blog community
ioleggoletichetta.it, told Reuters.
The trend hasn't gone unnoticed at the Bar Principe in
central Milan, and it is hitting the owner, Fausto D'Andrea, in
Though coffee prices have risen sharply - reaching a 34-year
high on world coffee markets last summer - D'Andrea has had to
freeze prices to keep his clientele.
"There has been a little slowdown in consumption, but I
haven't increased prices," he said, as he served coffees and
sandwiches to customers brandishing corporate lunch vouchers.
D'Andrea said he served espressos for 0.80 euros a cup,
against average prices of 0.90 euros charged by rivals in
Italy's financial capital.
Still too much for those opting for a kitchen cup, some of
whom are fuelling the growth of the $8 billion single-cup coffee
market, dominated by players such as Nestle's
Nespresso and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc, in
which Italian coffee-producer Lavazza also has a stake.
But one-cup coffee makers and the coffee-filled cups, discs
or capsules they use, still account for only 8 percent of total
worldwide coffee sales.
In Italy, at least, that is because the consumer has gone
back to the stove-top moka pot that their grandparents would
have used after the Great Depression.
Consumer blogger Brogna said most of the 52,000 followers
polled on his Facebook and Twitter pages said they had returned
to the moka pot to save money.
"After years using various coffee machines, we have gone
back to our beloved moka ... cheap and with a unique taste!"
consumer Francesca Larcinese wrote on the blog's Facebook page.
Since entrepreneur Alfonso Bialetti created his first moka
in 1933, the two-chamber steel pot has resisted competition from
the fancy single-serve brewers.
In Italy, nearly 80 percent of the population drink coffee
at home, and nearly 60 percent own a moka, leading moka
manufacturer Bialetti said, adding the recession was
encouraging the use of ground coffee.
"Consumers have certainly become more cautious about
spending, and the cost of coffee-filled cups is higher than
ground coffee," said Gaia Mazzon, head of communications at
Bialetti has also started to invest in multi-function
machines that use discs and ground coffee, Mazzon said.
Consumer Annalisa Di Modugno said she preferred to spend
0.85 euros for a 250-gramme pack of ground coffee than 30 euros
per month on coffee-filled capsules.
The only cost-saving option not on the coffee table is
"I cannot see a permanent drop in consumption in Italy ...
because it's part of their culture," Roberio Silva, Executive
Director, International Coffee Organisation (ICO), told Reuters
"It would be impossible. I'd give up other things but never
coffee," cafe consumer Enzo Serrani said.