Italian Coffee, Sustainability Is the Keyword

Ranking third in the world as for exports, Italian coffee is more and more appreciated by the American consumers. In fact they can choose among a wide range of premium offering from organic to single origin blends

As an affordable luxury, Italian coffee sales keep growing on global scale. In particular, U.S. imports from Italy are constantly increasing for the last four calendar years and the majority of the coffee that is imported is roasted, followed by soluble and unprocessed. ICE’s statistics for 2018 show Italy as the 14th exporter, having moved by one position in the ranking. Italian coffee exports towards USA ($110.2 million) posted +2.1% compared to the previous year, gaining a corresponding market share of 2.0% (in 2017 was 1.7%), while other competitors are generally decreasing, except for Switzerland (+28.4%), Costa Rica (17.3%) and Mexico (3.0%).

Italian coffee-Dolce Gusto compatible capsule Pellini BIO
Dolce Gusto compatible capsule – Pellini BIO


  • Espresso and coffee in general is the best drink in Italy – The extension of ground coffee range, in particular, is wider and wider in order to have the suitable coffee at any time of day. For Millennials and Generation Z, coffee is a refreshing drink to pair also with food. Limited editions, premium blends, single origin blends and more in general ‘terroir’ coffee as well as organic and aromatic proposals are increasing;
  • Clean labels to show premium quality – From the plantations in equatorial or tropical regions to the cup, labels tell the story of coffee and explain its qualities. Area of origin and traditional processing methods, for instance, are synonyms with high quality product: 100% from sustainable agricolture coffee is guaranteed by certifications (Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fairtrade Certified);
  • Compatible capsules make a great leap forward – Nespresso and Dolcegusto are the most popular systems globally. But capsules have to be recyclable so companies invest in research to make them ecofriendly. Also coffee pads are more and more compostable. There is a general set-up of certification systems for both capsules and pads.
Italian coffee
L’Espresso Dolce arabica – Caffè Trombetta


The ability to mix beans of different species and provenance, before or after roasting, to obtain unique aromas drives Italian coffee exports. Composing the blend ­– the most creative step where the percentage of the two varieties of Arabica and Robusta are calibrated – is needed to give the best balance between taste, aroma, body and sour-bitter sensation. Companies are focusing their attention on major issues such as sustainability, quality and provenance of raw materials, which characterize a trend towards premiumness. When it comes to premium products, organic and single origin coffee are emerging trends among the Italian offering. The finest blends are from certified sustainable agricolture and are able to enhance complex local processing methods, which are specific for every single production area, emphasizing the concept of terroir.

Clean labels are thus necessary to underline the product’s quality showing exactly where it comes from and how it has been processed, better if carrying certifications symbols. Moreover, the ground coffee range is enriched by new varieties with particular floreal or fruity notes and different levels of intensity to meet consumers’ distinct tastes and needs with regard to the different times of the day and occasions.

Italian coffee
Caffè Motta Cialda Espresso

Speaking about how to drink coffee, single-serve and capsules in particular are on the rise and coffee is no more considered only as the traditional short espresso but it is transforming itself in a fresh drink on-the-go suitable for different occasions during the day, even to pair with food such as pizza, especially in the habits of the youngest generations. Sustainability represents a major issue so both capsules and pads are to be recyclable or compostable and the companies are moving fast to obtain ecofriendly packs.


Following International Coffee Organization’s latest data, in 2017/18, the US consumed around 26.7 million 60-kg bags green-bean equivalent (1.6 billion metric tons). This compares to 44.6 million 60-kg bags (2.7 billion tons) for the European Union. In the past five years, US consumption has grown at an average rate of 2.6% per year.

Espresso coffee capsules – illycaffè


The global production of coffee is constantly increasing, recording a positive trend that has been sustained over almost ten years. For 2018-2019, green coffee production should reach 167.47 million bags, equivalent to 10.04 million tons, showing a growing trend (+4.8%) compared to the previous year, according to the latest forecasts provided at the beginning of 2019 by Ico – International Coffee Organization about the ongoing season.

capsule-Lavazza-Blue pod
Coffee capsules – Lavazza

The raw material – grown in different areas of Latin America and Caribbean, of Africa and some Asian countries – is addressed mainly to the European market, Italy in particular together with Germany. Following Ico’s forecasts, they are in fact the two largest importers of green coffee all over the world, so the first two players of the roasting industry, followed by United States, Japan, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, South Korea, Algeria, Australia and China.

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