February 05th 2014

New consumer behavior – the response of a traditional brand

Jan Van Riet, President Melitta Europa GmbH & Co. KG, Household Products Division

On January 30, 2014 the captain of the international Melitta fleet was the visiting speaker in the MCI Alumni & Friends lecture series at the Entrepreneurial School®.

The international Melitta Group is a vendor of products for the household, catering trade and bulk consumers in Europe, North and South America and Asia. Melitta was founded as a family business in 1908. It is now a group of 50 companies with 3600 employees and net sales totaling 1.4 billion euros.

An electrical engineer by training, Van Riet only became a marketer later in life. At Melitta, after some initial setbacks, he managed to steer the company into the market for fully automatic coffee. The traditional manufacturer of coffee filters found it difficult at first to extend its activities to include the new segment, and the German manager is surprisingly candid on the subject of initial quality problems, product recalls and resulting image problems, and a general internal skepticism with regard to new systems.

But they persevered, and following a relaunch were able to establish themselves on the market. In this context Van Riet stresses the importance of intensive marketing, which is decisive for survival in a competitive market.

But Van Riet also has a word of warning: “Self-satisfaction is the biggest enemy” and speaks of Melitta’s possible entry into the highly competitive market of coffee capsule systems. He also emphasizes the importance of combing “tradition with innovation” because that, he says, is the biggest challenge on the road to success.

The talk was moderated by Professor Johannes Dickel.