By Christian Smith
Chicagoans are the most adventurous coffee lovers in the country, according to Italian coffeemaker Lavazza's inaugural U.S. Coffee Consumption Survey.
They are more likely to sip coffee cocktails, slather their half-smokes with espresso barbecue sauce, or slurp a caffeinated chowder than coffee drinkers in New York, L.A., Dallas, and Boston.
"Coffee, as crazy as it sounds, is a very versatile ingredient," said the chef Fabio Viviani. He has been using Lavazza coffee at his Chicago-area restaurants since "literally the day we opened."
Viviani, a "Top Chef" all star, has partnered with Lavazza to craft coffee-inspired recipes like an espresso-infused old fashioned cocktail. It's simple, he said, but the combination packs a ton of flavor and the Lavazza reminds Viviani of his childhood in Florence, Italy.
"Lavazza is one of the most traditional Italian brand of coffee in Italy," Viviani said in an interview Thursday with Cheddar. "There are not a lot of options with the quality and heritage they bring to the table."
Lavazza polled 1,000 coffee drinkers in five cities to analyze coffee consumption habits in some of America's largest cities. The company found more than half of respondents in Chicago enjoy coffee "outside of the cup."
In recent years, the family-owned coffee company founded in 1895 has amped up its distribution in the United States. Coffee is one of the strongest areas of the restaurant and food retail industries. American coffee house sales hit $23.4 billion in 2017, according to research by Mintel, and it is expected to grow to nearly $29 billion by 2021.
Growth has slowed some in recent years because more people are turning to ready-to-drink coffee. It made up 20 percent of the $13.6 billion retail coffee market, and is forecast to grow 67 percent by 2022. Davide Riboni, the CEO of Lavazza North America, said the company aims to capitalize on that growth.
"In the retail channel there is space for us to grow," said Riboni, adding that the company recently introduced a K-cup line, which are used in Keurig single-serve coffee makers. "There are a lot of areas for improvement to make more accessible our brand and our coffee in some restaurants, hotels, coffee chains, hospitalities generally speaking."
Lavazza's push to expand its footprint in the United States comes as Starbucks and Nestle announced a $7 billion deal, granting Nestle the right to distribute Starbucks coffee. Lavazza reportedly turned down offers from Nestle and JAB Holdings. When asked if the Starbucks deal concerns him, Riboni said that it hasn't knocked Lavazza off course.
"Coffee is an art, and what we are here to do is making coffee more available in the market," said Riboni. "So there is definitely space for different kinds of personalities, different kind of taste and profiles."
For the full interview, click here.