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Coffee king Lavazza dies

Third-generation exec expanded empire, started popular ads

17 February, 17:33
Coffee king Lavazza dies (ANSA) - Turin, February 17 - Italian coffee king Emilio Lavazza died in his native Turin Wednesday. He was 77.

Lavazza took over the reins of the family firm in 1971 when his father Giuseppe died after helping grandfather and founder Luigi turn a 19th-century grocery store into a domestic and international powerhouse.

Emilio, chairman from 1979 until 2008, followed the family recipe of seeking beans ever farther afield and consolidated its domestic share with premier products such as the famous Lavazza Gold and Grand' Espresso which, together with its less pricey varieties, lay claim to almost half the Italian market.

Starting in the 1980s, Lavazza produced award-winning TV ads featuring cinema stars like Nino Manfredi and TV personalities like Paolo Bonolos, whose Heaven-set spots the company recently accused Nespresso of copying. Emilio Lavazza also started up 'real' Italian coffee bars abroad in an attempt to beat back behemoths like Starbucks, most recently venturing into the Indian market on a joint venture with the Barista Coffee chain.

Branded as 'Italy's Favourite Coffee', Lavazza can now be found in supermarkets worldwide, produced in four factories in Italy, six in Europe and one in the United States.

With an estimated turnover of almost one billion euros, Lavazza is one of Italy's biggest food groups, rivalling the country's pasta, tomato, cheese, ham and olive oil giants.

It is the country's largest 'mono-product' company.

Emilio Lavazza was honoured for his services to Italian industry in the 1990s, becoming a 'Knight of Labour,' and received an honorary degree from Turin University in 1993.

He served several terms as president of the Italian association of food manufacturing and was a longtime executive in the Turin industrialists' union. Among the first to pay tribute to the late entrepreneur was Enzo Ghigo, head of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party in Piedmont, the region around Turin.

"The Piedmontese industrial world has lost one of its most prestigious names, an old-style entrepreneur, tenacious and highly innovative," he said.

photo: a Lavazza ad

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