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The importance of innovation in the coffee industry

September 12, 2016


Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica celebrated its 10th anniversary last month with a curated collection of rare photographs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.


The photos are from the Bob Bonis Archive. Bonis was the U.S. tour manager for both bands from 1964-1966. Bonis’s family in 2008, 16 years after his death unearthed the negatives for both pictures.


So what, you are perfectly within your rights to ask, do photos of music icons have to do with celebrating good coffee? Well, The Beatles — the most popular rock band in the history of the world. They managed to stay together for just 10 years, which adds an extra level of notability to Luxxe’s achievement. There is also a certain level of geographical relevance for the Los Angeles based coffee house. In its proximity to the good, and the great of Hollywood.


The main point however, is that this unusual way of celebrating the company anniversary herald’s one very important aspect of coffee’s living and breathing history. As well as a vital example of what is needed for the industry’s future.  What seems like a nicety is actually a beautiful example of innovation.





Coffee and culture


Coffee and culture go hand in hand, and while we are all preoccupied with our morning pick-me-up or guzzling down an espresso from a paper cup en route to the next meeting. It actually has a far more prominent social and cultural place in the world.


In Vienna for example, arguably one of the cultural capitals of the world, coffee is a way of life. Savoured and UNESCO even added Viennese coffee house culture to their list of intangible cultural heritage. Because its ‘very specific atmosphere… where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.’


Viennese coffee houses, more than cafes anywhere else in the world, invited people to hang out, think, read, write, and discuss. The culture rose to fame thanks to Sigmund Freud, Egon Schiele, Leon Trotsky, and Gustav Klimt, regulars that lauded them publicly.


Famous writers wrote entire novels in their café of choice and Johann Strauß, Mozart, and Beethoven even performed in them. In short, coffee and culture go hand in hand, historically providing space to savour and think so ideas can happen.



Innovation and the business of coffee


Fast forward to 2016, and how does that culture influence the bottom line? Other than, being a tradition that those of us who enjoy specialist coffee may well wish to perpetuate?


Well, one of the biggest challenges for any business today is sustainability.  How do you make a business last?  In his TEDtalk ‘How to build a business that lasts 100 years’ Martin Reeves explained to a flabbergasted audience that today majority of businesses don’t last more than five years.  In that time, they are either bought out or fail.



So what sorts the wheat from the chaff?  As part of his speech, he highlighted Kodak’s monumental demise vs Fuji’s continued presence in the film industry.  Both similar products offering similar things.  The difference between the two was adaptability and innovation.  Reeves highlights that “companies must supplement traditional competitive advantage with dynamic, adaptive capabilities and strategies.”  That goes for everything from their production to their marketing.


In a world of specialist coffee, we know that our challenge is one of quality v quantity. Make our businesses sustainable, whilst maintaining both aspects. But how?  Well, innovation can take a long time to brew. However, with the right pedigree and knowledge (more than 75 years since you’re asking), we might just have the answer.









































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