Italy's premier coffee maker Illy is joining forces with Grom, one of the country's leading ice-cream chains.
"It's a matter of affinity," says Riccardo Illy, vice president of the coffee dynasty. "We've been working together for a while". After realizing that his company and Grom shared many of the same product and industry values, Illy has decided to invest, acquiring 5% of Grom, the Piedmont-based icecream company founded in 2002 by the young entrepreneurs Federico Grom and Guido Martinetti. The investment totalled 2.5 million euros, a sign of Grom's meteoric success, expanding to 45 ice-cream parlors in Italy and 10 more abroad in just a few years. From its modest beginnings in a small Turin storefront, the company is now considered the Italian answer to Ben & Jerry's, reaping 30 million euros in annual profits. Illy is confident in his firm's investment. "This way, Grom can finance itself without having to go to the market during a tense economic moment, when banks are asking enterprises for money," says the coffee magnate with a chuckle. For Grom, valued at 50 million euros, the partnership offers more than an injection of capital. "With this opportunity we will expand our international footprint," says Grom. "For now, we are in France, the US and Japan. Now we're looking with interest at Brazil and South Korea. Our goal is to raise our annual profit by 30%". Illy is no stranger to such expansion, having recently set up distribution in Brazil and China.
"Ice cream, together with espresso, represent the genius and excellence of Italian cuisine, which manages to attract more and more admirers year after year," says Martinetti, who worked as a wine expert before trading the glass for the icecream scoop. "It sounds absurd, but there is a lack of quality gelato in the world outside of Italy. It would be a shame to miss this opportunity". One thing that will never change, they say, is the duo's icecream craftsmanship that combines old-world quality with modern methods. The primary ingredients for every recipe come from the company's own farm in the northwestern town of Costigliole d'Asti, where it grows peaches, apricots, pears, figs, strawberries and melons on eight hectares of land - enough, say Grom and Martinetti, to supply 70 more future locations.