As part of the series of interviews dedicated to “Family Businesses in Times of Crisis”, we are happy to share the conversation between Carlotta Benedetti, PhD student at Free university of Bolzano and Nicolò Pellini, Head of Management Control Systems and third generation family member at Pellini Caffè.
The Pellini roasting company has been dedicated to the production of high-quality espresso coffee since 1922. With its plant located in Italy, near Verona, Caffè Pellini has been constantly growing in the last years, and it’s currently among the market leaders in the Italian coffee industry.

The COVID19 emergency has changed our lives. How has the life of Pellini as a company and as a family changed?
We consider ourselves lucky as, being part of the food industry, the government allowed us to continue our production activities. Moreover, even if we had to stop working with bars and restaurants, the other distribution channels have helped in compensating the losses. From an organizational point of view, the production automatization developed over the last few years and a number of measures such as the spacing between desks, the schedule of common areas and shifts, the use of smart working and the adoption of frequent sanitization processes has allowed us to operate without interruption and in complete safety.

Have you had the opportunity to plan any long-term strategy to face this challenging moment?
From a strategic perspective, this period has led us to rethink some of the initiatives that already existed, especially those oriented to lower the impact of our activities on the environment. On a practical level, however, we were led to innovate the way we work, using smart working and establishing a relationship with our agents based on working from remote.

How did you manage this new way of working?
We decided to implement the use of smart working only with a few employees, mainly within the sales department and in particular with our agents. For the other departments it was enough to follow the general guidelines of distancing and sanitization.

You are among the so-called “Made in Italy” companies with a strong international orientation. Do you think there will be specific repercussions on the “Made in Italy” district?
From the numbers that we have access to, such as those related to exports, we strongly believe that the coffee industry will be able to react positively to this crisis. As far as the other realities we work with such as roasters, bars and restaurants, unfortunately we believe that they will probably suffer from this period of emergency.

Pellini supply chain is composed by different suppliers from different areas of the world. How do you think this pandemic emergency will affect your strategic partners and suppliers?
If we talk about our supply chain, we must consider that it has slowed down a bit. It has not always been easy to find the raw materials, especially from countries as far away as Brazil.

Do you think that some of your partners will face struggles in dealing with this period? Have you planned any initiatives to support them?
In our case, we decided to undertake a strategy of greater diversification, trying to distribute the work fairly among different suppliers, also relying on those who were initially less involved. This can also be seen as an opportunity to rediscover some suppliers that were less considered in the past.

How the relationship with your final consumers has changed in this period?
Before this particular circumstance we had embraced strategies to strengthen the e-commerce channel. For example, we are among the first players within Amazon. Nowadays the e-commerce channel is balancing the loss of sales suffered during the pandemic. If I look at the future perspective, I believe that the full recovery will depend on people’s confidence. Paradoxically, all the activities could reopen but without people’s trust nothing could fully restart.

My last question summarizes the meaning of this series of interviews. The quarantine indeed has given us the unique opportunity to stop our daily routine and reflect. Among these reflections, did you have the chance of thinking about potential improvements for your business?
A first point of improvement is certainly linked to the push for the adoption of new technologies and innovation that will positively influence the company operations. In this moment, organizations are pushed to stop and think about how to change and innovate in order to positively perform. In addition, everyday results have reassured us that the investments we’re making are right, and this leads to strengthen the path we’ve taken. Finally, we continue reflecting on initiatives to increase the sustainability of our production. I hope that this bad experience becomes a recourse for everyone and leaves people wanting to do something positive for our planet.