Nespresso not raising coffee prices yet, sees slow demand from offices

The Nespresso logo and boxes of Nespresso coffee pods are pictured in the supermarket of Nestle headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland, February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

NEW YORK, June 23 (Reuters) - Nespresso, the premium coffee division controlled by Nestle SA (NESN.S), has not increased prices for its capsules yet despite a sharp increase in benchmark prices for arabica beans, opting to wait and see if the upward trend is sustainable over time.

Alfonso Gonzales Loeschen, the Chief Executive of Nespresso North America, said in an interview on Wednesday the company has so far absorbed price increases instead of passing on the higher costs to consumers, until there is more clarity about the market direction.

"It will all depend on how long these higher prices will be maintained," Loeschen said.

Benchmark arabica coffee prices on the ICE exchange hit the highest since November 2016 earlier this month, due to smaller production in top grower Brazil and disruptions to the supply chain.

Nespresso, as well as other premium coffee processors, usually pay a large premium over New York futures to associated growers around the world, as a way to guarantee supplies of the best coffees.

The CEO, who took over the job in the U.S. early in 2020 just weeks before the pandemic led to lockdowns, said direct sales to consumers increased 20% during the period, forcing the company to adjust to higher online sales and logistics demand.

Its boutique coffee stores are all open again, but sales to offices are slow and he does not see volumes on that selling channel recovering to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2022.

"It seems that only around 20% of workers are back to offices, and many people will keep working in a hybrid system," Loeschen said, adding that some companies supplied employees working from home with Nespresso packages during the pandemic, a new selling point for the Swiss firm.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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Covers agricultural commodities and biofuels, including production, trade and transportation, based in New York. Former Brazil correspondent and climate/environment reporter. Brazilian, holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree and has done post-graduate studies in Environmental Reporting from Germany's InWent Institute and Foreign Policy and International Political Economy from Harvard University. Avid soccer and tennis player.