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Jan van Riet (WMF Group) and Jörg Schwartze (Schaerer Ltd): «We put our customers at centre stage»

wmf Schaerer
Jan van Riet, President Global Professional Coffee Business of the WMF Group

MILAN, Italy – Comunicaffe International took the opportunity to speak at the HOST in Milan with Jan van Riet, President Global Professional Coffee Business of the WMF Group, and with Schaerer CEO Jörg Schwartze about the brand positioning, the market presence and the new technologies of the two professional coffee machine brands WMF and Schaerer.

Since 2016 WMF Group is a part of Groupe SEB: something has changed after this step?

For Groupe SEB, our business is a key strategic focus, and thus we developed an ambitious growth strategy. An important recent change in this context is the creation of the “SEB Professional” sales umbrella for all B2B brands of Groupe SEB and the WMF Group. In addition to WMF Professional Coffee Machines, this includes the coffee machine brands Schaerer and Wilbur Curtis as well as the Professional Hotel Equipment division with the brands WMF and HEPP. Thanks to these bundled brands strength, we can pursue and implement our corporate goals even more efficiently. This includes accelerating our profitable growth in key regions and markets, which are for us, the U.S. and China.

Besides, we see a strong growing business overall in Asia for professional coffee machines, setting overall a clear focus on our international business. For North America, this means we maximise our growth potential utilising the complementarity of customer bases, and product ranges from our three Brands Schaerer, WMF and Curtis. In the Chinese market, we are pursuing the goal of increasing our growth potential in the professional coffee machine sector in the steadily growing out-of-home coffee market. Moreover, our newly developed Global Key Account Organization for big customers worldwide will be our competitive edge to penetrate the needs of major global customers better and to become their first choice business partner.

Groupe SEB announced the acquisition of Wilbur Curtis in February 2019. Can you tell more details about the role of this brand in the success of Groupe SEB?

Wilbur Curtis represents a very valuable strategic addition for the Group due to its complementary product offering and customer portfolio. Founded in 1941, today Wilbur Curtis is the second-largest American and worldwide manufacturer of professional coffee brewing equipment. The company manufactures and markets equipment for the preparation of hot and cold beverages, mainly filter coffee as well as cappuccino machines. Sustained investment and a continuous commitment to innovation have enabled Wilbur Curtis to offer many of the US market’s best-in-class product offerings. Major customers include coffee roasters, specialty coffee retailers, convenience stores, fast-food chains, hotels and restaurants.

Wilbur Curtis has built and maintained a long-term relationship with its customers, leveraging its professional salesforce and ensuring extensive national coverage. Its high-performance production facility located in Montebello, California, employs 300 people. With the acquisition of Wilbur Curtis, Groupe SEB has become a leader in the professional coffee business in the United States.

What do the brands Schaerer and WMF stand for?

In addition to cutting-edge technology, in the highly competitive segment of professional coffee machines, machine manufacturers must offer a point of difference to the market. Each of our brands has a unique DNA and is positioned with an exclusive offer on the market.

Since 1927, WMF professional coffee machines have lived up to a clear promise: seamless premium experience created through the combination of coffee excellence, reliable solutions and unprecedented service, to optimize customers’ coffee business on a long-term basis. With the brand relaunch, we are emphasising our commitment to quality leadership “made in Germany”. The new “Designed to Perform” signature promises an unrivalled level of performance and investment security along the entire customer journey. “Designed to Perform” underscores the combined technological and coffee expertise which ensures that every customer is offered the right premium products, functions and services to provide them with consistently high coffee quality and process reliability. But that’s not all. The new performance promise also concentrates on consistently optimising and ensuring the future viability of the coffee business. As a full-service provider, our solutions are more than simply the driving force for process improvements and increased sales in the daily business of our customers. They also represent a highly agile culture of innovation which we pass on to our customers through new stimuli. This continuous dialogue and know-how transfer takes place via functional and digital innovations as well as through consultation services in the areas of coffee excellence and digital business expertise.

Schaerer stands for Swiss values combined with in-depth knowledge of coffee machines since 1924 to deliver the best quality of coffee drinks in the cup. We express these brand attributes with the claim „swiss coffee competence” and are experiencing them equally in our product development and the Coffee Competence Centre, our coffee expertise and training centre in Zuchwil. What unites all Schaerer customers: instead of an “off the rack” solution, they get a customised concept, which put their needs and their business model at centre stage. The Schaerer brand is characterised by its flexible solutions when it comes to the products and the general business behaviour. The product development follows customer requests, and new customer-specific products are created to offer the customer optimal customised solutions. On the other hand, Schaerer is able to handle large orders very flexible and efficient. Thereby a close, friendly partnership on equal footing is just as important as the provision of the coffee machine technology and services, which they need for their respective business model. We are even more strongly underlining the brand image and the promise to our customers with the new core message ‘We love it your way’.

Jörg Schwartze, CEO Schaerer

What’s the major market for the WMF and Schaerer both in terms of geography and segment?

WMF and Schaerer are selling coffee machines worldwide. The international distribution is carried out either via one of the eleven market companies and the Global Key Account Management or in cooperation with local distribution partners. By tradition, the core market of both brands is still Europe. However, the biggest growth drivers for us at present are the USA and Asia. In the USA,. In Asia, out-of-home coffee consumption is rising sharply overall, making impressive success stories like that of the rapidly expanding Chinese coffee shop chain Luckin Coffee possible. Whether in the USA or Asia: Coffee lovers are becoming more and more demanding. Regardless of whether they order their favourite coffee in a coffee shop, a bar or a convenience store, fresh ingredients – freshly ground quality beans and fresh milk – are more and more a basic requirement. They also want a wide variety – from espresso and black coffee to milk-based drinks such as cappuccino or latte macchiato.

Our technologies and holistic coffee concepts support operators in developing business models that meet these consumer demands. For example, syrup stations for WMF and Schaerer coffee machines, the “Hot & Cold” technology for the Schaerer Coffee Soul or the Chilled Coffee and Fresh-Filtered-Coffee technology for the WMF 1500 S+ and WMF 5000 S+ are ensuring the greatest possible variety. In addition to the hardware, the operating concept must support simple preparation and ideally enhance the user experience – both for the employees and for the guests in the self-service operation. Generous touch displays, which enable easy, intuitive operation, are already state-of-the-art for WMF and Schaerer coffee machines. The integration of online payment systems such as WeChat Pay or Alipay, which are essential for China, complete the package. In the course of the digitalisation of the coffee machine industry, another component is crucial for a sustainable coffee business: telemetry software coupled with extensive digital services such as those offered by our digital solutions WMF CoffeeConnect and Schaerer Coffee Link. These activities are not only focused on supporting our clients in optimising their business processes but also in adapting their range of products to suit their requirements and ensuring consistent coffee quality.

The simple operation and high process reliability of the machines also guarantee efficiency and consistent beverage quality, regardless of who is operating the coffee machine. There is no need for extensive training or even barista skills. Besides, the staff can carry out other tasks, such as preparing snacks or other beverage, during fully automatic preparation. In terms of “food waste”, too, the so-called bean-to-cup concepts have a better edge than filter coffee machines. The coffee specialities are only prepared when needed, instead of keeping large quantities of filter coffee warm for some time. If these are not sold, they must be thrown away after about 30 minutes, as the coffee does not taste good anymore. This concept is not only reducing the amount of food waste but also significantly reduces the amount of resources used.

The theme of sustainability is now a priority for all companies: what are your strategies?

Sustainability is a very important issue for us, and our goal is to improve continuously. We have initiated many different measures and are constantly working on identifying improvement potential and developing solutions. An important point is the reduction of energy consumption. To this end, we have already launched a comprehensive program with concrete goals and measures. Another area concerns our service fleet. To reduce the CO2 emissions of the vehicles with which our technicians travel, we want to optimise the use of vehicles in the future further. Machine recycling is also on our agenda. We are questioning which materials we use so that the machines can be recycled at the end of their service life and that the materials have no negative impact on the environment.

What are the current WMF and Schaerer product highlights?

WMF 5000S Plus
WMF 5000S Plus

WMF 1500 S+ and WMF 5000 S+ with Fresh Filtered Coffee technology
With its innovative Fresh Filtered Coffee technology, designed for the WMF 1500 S+ and WMF 5000 S+ fully automatic speciality machines, WMF is bringing together the best features of two different worlds – making it possible to produce both coffee specialities and freshly filtered coffee using a single machine. The revolutionary technology is based on a bean-to-cup brewing cycle that can accommodate both popular speciality beverages and freshly filtered coffee. For each cup, the machine starts by freshly grinding and brewing a café crème; this is then filtered in the filter capsule and dispensed. This process removes any sediment or oils, allowing the fresh filtered coffee to develop its characteristic aromatic taste. Because the system ensures a constant temperature and volume, every cup of filtered coffee is as wonderfully flavorful and fresh as the last. And to make everything even more convenient for users, there is a choice of different milk systems: Dynamic Milk, Easy Milk or Basic Milk, so coffee specialities and freshly filtered coffee can both be produced and served with milk.

WMF Espresso
WMF Espresso

WMF espresso
Since its successful market launch, the automatic portafilter machine WMF espresso has stood for Italian barista flair with simultaneous process reliability. Bridging the gap between two different worlds, the award-winning WMF espresso combines the unmistakable taste of tradition with the undeniable benefits of automation. It looks and sounds like a classic portafilter machine – steaming, hissing and evoking all the emotions of an authentic espresso bar – but the trickier parts of the process are fully automated. So it not only guarantees consistently high coffee quality, but it´s also remarkably easy to use. The consistent further development of this symbiosis is also the focus of WMF’s innovations this year. The new functions of WMF espresso include above all the telemetry solution “WMF CoffeeConnect” and the real-time quality monitoring “Dynamic Coffee Assist”. Fitted as standard, intelligent Dynamic Coffee Assist technology continuously monitors the factors that determine coffee quality, including ground coffee quantity and grinding degree, automatically adjusting them to guarantee the perfect extraction time for the consistently high quality of the espresso. Also, there are two optional, large bean hoppers with a capacity of 1100 g each and an optional second Auto Steam for automatic milk foaming on the right-hand side of the machine for added flexibility.

Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner
Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner

Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner
Being able to dispense different products from self-service machines, from sweet snacks to sandwiches and even coffee, is expected by many consumers. The quality of the products plays an important role, but especially when it comes to coffee, the taste often does not live up to expectations. With the Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner Schaerer offers an outstanding self-service concept for coffee specialities prepared with freshly ground beans and fresh milk. Guests who select their favourite beverage from the extensive menu of coffee specialities on the large 32-inch touch display of the Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner can be sure they are getting the same quality as they would in a café. The secret: The centrepiece of the Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner is the same high-performance technology which ensures a high level of coffee quality for the Schaerer tabletop coffee machines. The “Ready-to-go” Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner offers an optimum selection of features and accessories, including up to three-bean grinders and two 10 litres fresh milk containers as well as a refrigerator, a wastewater tank, two powders and a syrup station. Also, customers can choose whether they want their Premium Coffee Corner branded in Schaerer design or according to their ideas. For this plug-and-play solution, the operator only needs a power connection and a fixed water supply to get started right away. To offer customers maximum flexibility when purchasing their Schaerer Premium Coffee Corner and the best possible integration into their individual business model, the self-service coffee concept can also be realised as a customised customer solution. As a manufacturer with many years of experience in the field of customised solutions, Schaerer assists interested parties from the very beginning to develop together the optimal product version for their needs.

Schaerer Coffee Soul
Schaerer Coffee Soul

The new Schaerer Coffee Soul
With a new conceptual approach, the new Schaerer Coffee Soul unites unique design with nearly limitless configuration possibilities. Thanks to the innovative “Select” principle, it is even easier for customers to precisely configure the fully-automatic coffee machine to fit their business model. With the preview of the two design variants Schaerer Coffee Soul 10 and Schaerer Coffee Soul 12 at the Host in Milan, Schaerer gave an impressive show of what the motto “We love it your way” stands for and what this self-image means for the customer as well as the advancement of the machine portfolio. With or without “Best Foam”? “Hot & Cold” technology for cold coffee specialities? Number of bean hoppers? Automatic outlet? The new Schaerer Coffee Soul is designed so that the customer can use the “Select” principle to decide which equipment it will have. Regardless of the technical configuration, the customer can also select between two design variants: Variant one features a 10-inch screen and is ideally suited for example in the serviced behind-the-counter area of restaurants or coffee shops. The second design package stands out thanks to a high resolution 12-inch screen and extended lighting. It goes well with high-quality materials, stainless steel and for example decorative metal look elements. The user interface of both variants is a completely new design as well with three pre-configured options for the display of beverages and selection processes that are supporting the three most common operating situations: operated by trained staff, self-service by occasional consumers or the so-called frequent user mode (for example in the office).

Schaerer Hot & Cold Technology
Cold Latte or Cold Cappuccino is today unmissable option on many drink menus, alongside ever-popular iced coffees. With the optional “Hot & Cold” feature, Schaerer is fully aligned with this trend and offers caterers and restaurateurs a solution to prepare cold coffee specialities to the highest levels of taste and quality. Themed “brewed hot – served chilled”, the freshly ground beans are brewed conventionally first of all. The beverage cooling system developed by Schaerer then comes into play to chill the coffee to between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius while it flows into the glass or cup. Milk foam is prepared from cold milk at 5 degrees Celsius from the fridge. This principle opens up whole new possibilities for creating a large range of refreshing coffee specialities, with or without ice cubes. For milk-based beverages, the patented “Best Foam” milk system supplies cold milk as well as barista-standard milk foam in up to four different consistencies. The corresponding recipe is stored on the system and selected via the touch display.