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Hemro Group sets the scene

From the April 2019 issue.

Hemro Group Managing Director of Innovation and Technology Ilan Maimon discusses how usability and connectivity will guide the future of coffee grinding.

When Mahlkönig first unveiled its E65S grinder at World of Coffee Amsterdam in 2018, the German manufacturer and its parent company Hemro Group called it the “next generation of espresso grinding”.

With an emphasis on usability, the E65S’s simple interface, multifunctional turn- and push-button, and removeable powder chute to facilitate cleaning are designed to improve the barista experience.

However, Hemro Group Managing Director of Innovation and Technology Ilan Maimon says the E65S is only the beginning.

“If you think of the E65S as the successor to the Mahlkönig K30, we want to do the same across our portfolio,” Maimon says. “We aim to completely reinvent our line of products. Within the next few years, none of our grinders will stay the way they are today.”

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Since entering the coffee industry 15 years ago, Maimon has displayed the ability to identify and capitalise on growing trends in the industry. After moving to China in 2002, he saw potential for coffee to rise in prominence.

“There were a few start-ups, but it was not what you would really a coffee scene,” Maimon says. “However, in countries around China such as Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, which in my mind were of a similar culture and taste for food and beverages to China, coffee cultures were already established.

“I thought it was fair to assume that the coffee scene would spread there as well.”

Maimon established grinder manufacturer Heycafé to cater to this anticipated market, and it wasn’t long before his prediction proved accurate.

“Heycafé began production in 2006, and quite quickly became the strongest brand in Asia for entry-level coffee grinders,” Maimon says. “We didn’t receive much attention from Europe at first, but Heycafé quickly grew in places like Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and, of course, China.”

The Hemro Group took notice of Heycafé’s success and formed a partnership with the brand in 2016. Heycafé joined Mahlkönig, Anfim, and Ditting as a full-fledged member of the group in late 2018. It was at this time that Maimon transitioned to his current innovation and technology position within the company.

“I come from an engineering background. Sales and finance are not my most favourite subjects. Joining Hemro provided me with fruitful ground where my accumulated ideas throughout the years can come true,” Maimon says.

“When you run your own start-up or small- to medium-size company, you always have to consider the amount of resources you can invest in a project. With the Hemro Group, it’s a totally different game. It is a strong, successful company with what feels to me like endless resources for development.”

In his role, Maimon oversees a large engineering team, who have started a program that aims to “change the ways grinders work and people use them”.

“For the past 30 to 40 years, grinders have made small step-by-step developments, adding and improving features with each new model. As dramatic as it sounds, we hope to create a revolution,” Maimon says.

“We have started from scratch to make a grinder that will fit our modern environment. The machine has to do more than just grind coffee – it needs to be able to provide information about its maintenance, dosage, accuracy, and grind size. It needs to be able to do this remotely as well as through a small screen on the unit.”

Hemro Group has focused its developments on two key criteria: usability and connectivity. Maimon says it is important the industry take full advantage of new technologies to facilitate a greater flow of information.

“We are entering a new era of technology with concepts like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence gaining more prominence. Grinders will become more clever, less dependent on the barista, and more self-contained with the knowledge and ability to inform the user of its condition and performance,” he says.

Maimon says these advancements could prove beneficial to baristas in different markets in separate ways. While baristas in established coffee scenes, such as Europe or Australia, will appreciate a greater level of control, consistency, and emphasis on recipe development, users in developing markets will enjoy the ease of use.

“An appreciation for coffee is something people learn from drinking it. It’s like sitting next to your parents and watching them while they drive a car. When you start driving for yourself, you almost know what to do,” Maimon says.

“Some regions in Asia don’t have this previous connection. Just 10 years ago, people didn’t really drink coffee. Now, thousands of coffee shops open every year. You have to wonder: ‘How did they get professional baristas to run their equipment? How do they make coffee just as well as other places in the world?’ The only way to overcome this lack of experience is to make the machines smarter and more user friendly.”

Though these features may prove beneficial to both markets, Maimon says it is important to remember that they may also have different requirements. The is where Hemro Group’s four brands are able to differentiate themselves.

“Growing markets have different needs in terms of grinding and commercial ability. Most new shops don’t know if they’re going to make money selling coffee, so they don’t want to invest in high-end equipment. This is where an entry-level alternative is valuable,” Maimon says.

He compares the strategy to that of the Volkswagen Group, which produces cars under multiple brands including Audi, Porsche, Škoda, and Seat, as well as its namesake.

“When you buy a Seat, you expect a car that will serve you well for a long time. With an Audi, you expect the same thing with a bit more luxury or additional features,” Maimon says.

“We look at our four brands in exactly the same way. Our grinders will always be accurate and create an even particle distribution, but different brands will provide this with more luxury, digital solutions, and complexity.”

Through Hemro Group’s brands’ more than 100 years of accumulative experience, Maimon says the company is well positioned to create a higher standard for coffee grinding.

“The world is moving, and it is time for coffee grinding to catch up. The generation of customers is changing, with younger people joining and influencing the coffee industry,” he says.

“To maintain our dominance in the market, it is vital we continue to lead the world with innovation.”

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