MILAN, Italy – Julius Meinl is an internationally successful Austrian family company founded in 1862 in Vienna. Julius Meinl is a global ambassador for Viennese coffee culture and today inspires people all over the world, just as the coffee house literati did in days gone by. The company already ranks among the top three premium coffee brands in over 40 countries. Julius Meinl is the market leader in Austria, Russia, the Adriatics, CEE, Romania and Dubai.
Last month, we met at HostMilano the company’s CEO Marcel Loeffler, who gave us this exclusive interview.
The history of Julius Meinl started way back in 1862 with Julius Meinl, who opened a drugstore: How far have you come from that initial opening to today?
In 1877, Julius Meinl I, being a reputable coffee and tea expert as well as a gifted inventor, came up with his unique drum-roasting technique. This was the beginning of the company’s success story.
Julius Meinl II developed a process for the industrial production of the finest table and drinking chocolate. By 1928, the company was operating 353 grocery shops in Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Romania. His son, Julius Meinl III, was not only a successful entrepreneur but has also been counted among the social pioneers of his time.
In 1931, he introduced the five-day week into the company’s production plants. All of his employees over the age of 60 received a pension supplement. During the Great Depression in the ’30’s, he offered all unemployed people a discount of 5 percent on their purchases. In 1938, he and his family were forced to emigrate to England.
After the war, the family successfully restarted their retail business in Europe and in 1998, they decided to leave the grocery trade and concentrate on the strengths and roots of the company: premium coffee and tea. The reason was the Europe-wide, share-driven development of the grocery trade. This was not a path that the entrepreneurs at Julius Meinl wished to take, as they were committed to providing the highest quality.
Since then, the company has expanded across the globe, step by step. Starting in Austria and Italy, Julius Meinl expanded its market to Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey. It wasn’t long before the brand became established in the Middle East and in recent years has expanded successfully in East Asia and Australia. Julius Meinl is on the road to becoming a global brand for coffee and tea in more than 70 countries.
Can you tell us about the development from then up to the most recent generation of the family company? A generation lead by strong women, Christina Meinl and Jeannette Meinl, for example?
Since 1862 Julius Meinl has been a very innovative family company. Now the fifth generation of Julius Meinl plays a hands-on role in the company’s activities. Jeannette Meinl has followed in her forefathers’ footsteps by being responsible for the main area of coffee and tea purchasing and maintains the long-term business relationships with partners in South America, Africa and Asia.
Christina Meinl is in charge of international marketing and innovation. In her role as President of the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) she has her finger on the pulse of the market and is aware of the latest trends, producing new ideas and providing the company with solutions for the future.
Furthermore, Christina Meinl is very engaged in the development of sustainable products. At the moment, she is focusing on compostable materials and zero waste concepts.
You chose to produce capsules for the in-home consumption: How does this fit together with the other main trend of sustainability?
The demand for capsules compatible with the Nespresso coffee machines is still increasing. But more and more people are looking for sustainable solutions. They wish to enjoy their coffee with a clear conscience. With them in mind, we introduced 100% industrially compostable coffee capsules made from renewable resources in October.
The new Inspresso capsules are available in two variants Espresso Bio Fairtrade & Lungo Fairtrade. In this way, we are proving our commitment to sustainability within the coffee producing industry. Within 2020, all our Inspresso capsules will be made of biodegradable materials that can be composted industrially.
(Further information: The capsule bodies and lids provide a high oxygen – aroma – flavour barrier compliant with the European norm EN 13432. They are TÜV certified, 100% industrial compostable and made from renewable resources, certified OK BIOBASED and Bisphenol A-free.)
Julius Meinl is one of the founding members of the European Chapter of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA): How important is education for the company?
Exchanging experience, passing on knowledge, research and training are the main tools used by the SCA. Education is also one of the main goals of Julius Meinl. It takes up to six months to produce a perfect blend of coffee, but it only takes six seconds to ruin it. It is only by combining a premium quality product with the right preparation that will ensure what’s in the cup is perfect.
Therefore, we put a lot of effort and dedication into the education of our clients and their employees. We offer the highest quality training in our Julius Meinl Academy in Vienna and various training centers in other countries as well as at our customers’ premises.
What kinds of services does Julius Meinl offer the consumers?
Across the world, we are known as the ambassador of the Viennese coffee house Culture. It is our soul, our heritage. The Viennese coffee house culture is not only famous for the unique way to enjoy a cup of coffee but also its special atmosphere that creates space for the poetic and creative moments in life. We feel we must provide people all over the world with countless, inspiring moments.
We love to motivate them with our coffee and tea to discover and live out their creativity and we want to make our contribution to making the world a more poetic and therefore a better place. This is for us but also for future generations, in small but meaningful steps.
On the 21st March 2014, we started our global “Pay with a Poem” initiative and wrote another chapter in our mission of creating a better world through poetry. Since then we’ve been celebrating the power of poetry. The idea is simple: those who put prose to paper on 21st March, the international day of poetry, can use their hand-written poem to pay for a coffee or tea in participating coffee houses serving Julius Meinl in over 40 countries worldwide. 2019 marked the sixth year of the Pay With A Poem initiative and we are receiving thousands of poems from all over the word.
Julius Meinl can be proud of its many certifications. How important is it today to stay up to date in this area?
It is extremely important. On the one hand, climate change is the global challenge of our future. On the other, our customers expect us to supply and implement sustainable solutions. We have been a family business for more than 155 years.
Sustainable entrepreneurship has always been very important to us and still is today. We hold a lot of certifications in our roasting plants such as ISO 14001 – Environmental Management, ISO 9001 Quality Management, BS OHSAS 18001 – Standard for international occupational health and safety, IFS International Food Standard – Food Safety Standard. One fifth of our green coffee procurement is UTZ certified, organic and comes from fair trade and this percentage is set to increase.
Julius Meinl has an Academy of Tea & Coffee: How does this work?
Coffee is a fascinating life-style product and at the same time can create moments of pure enjoyment. All around the world people are continuing to have higher expectations as far as taste, variety and quality are concerned. Given our experience with 50,000 customers worldwide, we know all about the importance of quality coffee and tea preparation. Our coffee training courses all around the world include coffee basics in general, (the process from plant to cup, differences in coffee species, origins and processing as well as roast profiles in terms of taste), how the portafilter machine and grinder are to be handled, the perfect extraction for espresso, milk frothing and latte art techniques, how to produce a range of espresso based drinks and general information on coffee such as the “history of coffee” or “myths about coffee”. In addition to this, we offer special courses for modern, trendy brewing methods such as Chemex, Siphon or AeroPress and in customised courses for our clients.
We also focus on Viennese coffee culture by addressing the topic of a Viennese roast profile and methods of coffee beverage preparation since the peak of Viennese coffee house culture dating back to the 1860s when our company was founded.
Our tea training courses range from seminars and workshops on expert background knowledge from our Global Tea Expert to the right preparation of tea, discussing what is real tea and what is considered an infusion.
Apart from the tea basics (from plant to cup), students learn about a huge variety of teas and infusions spanning all kind of tea products available in the portfolio of Julius Meinl from single bag, large bag, leaf bag and loose tea to freshly brewed tea on the rocks, learn the differences in quality and get advice on how to prepare them.
Furthermore, customised tea workshops are offered for B2B clients on a global level.
Julius Meinl has specialised in premium coffee and tea: Is it hard to maintain the high quality these days?
Providing the best quality and service have been our key to success since 1862. It is part of our DNA. Over 155 years of passion, experience and expertise as well as continuous improvement allow us to serve the best quality to our customers and consumers. We have always focused and will always focus on achieving the best product and service on the market. We have long-standing contacts the places the coffee comes from”Our business is a family business and is built on direct trade.
Jeannette Meinl, who is responsible for green coffee procurement at Julius Meinl, accompanied her father from early age on his journeys into the countries where the coffee is produced. There she got to know the coffee farmers. Many of them have been suppliers for decades. Long-standing business relationships are important and part of our success. On the one hand, it is a matter of trust, on the other, it reflects our obsession for finding the best quality.
We can rely on the quality from our trusted suppliers because we know the coffee farmers and their families personally.
Host 2019: How did things go at the Julius Meinl stand? Were there a lot of visitors?
It was a huge success. More than five hundred customers and Julius Meinl employees visited the fair and our stand. Our team at the booth collected more than 1,500 business cards. There were visitors from all over the world, 171 countries worldwide. We showed our modbar, the “under counter” solution as well as our cold brew and nitro brew innovations. We were impressed and delighted by the high level of interest of the international audience.
What are the future goals for the company?
Our success is the result of our unique global brand positioning as an ambassador of the Viennese Coffeehouse culture, the best quality products and services as well as a tailored innovation policy, including our strategic market development through acquisitions in markets with strong growth potential. We are already among the leading 3 coffee brands in top-class restaurants worldwide.
For years, we have been the market leader in high-end gastronomy in Austria, the Adriatics, CEE, Russia and Dubai, and since 2018, in Romania too. Today, the Julius Meinl Coffee Group has subsidiaries and sales partners on-site in over 70 countries worldwide.
The company has its own subsidiaries in 21 countries. These include Austria, Germany, Italy, Croatia, the United Kingdom, France, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, the USA, Dubai, China, Bulgaria and Poland. Our ultimate goal is to become a global brand.