The high-end brand is long-established at the forefront of good taste, in both coffee and art.
In the multi-million-pound coffee business, illy has been pioneering coffee-making for more than 75 years. Growing its connections with art and design, alongside producing and selling coffee, it has placed itself at the centre of high-end coffee culture through innovation and quality.
The illy passion for coffee began with Hungarian founder Francesco Illy Passing through the town of Trieste in north-east Italy while serving in World War I, he decided to settle there, and found it the ideal place to start a coffee business.
The location worked well for illy. With a thriving free port, incorporating favourable customs regulations and essential trade routes, it was already a crucial part of the flourishing coffee trade in the country.
Not just a businessman, illy designed and patented a predecessor of the modern espresso coffee machine, the illetta, in 1935. Another revolutionary idea, using pressurisation as a method of preserving coffee blends, meant that the coffee could be shipped across the rest of Italy and the world, while retaining its quality and flavour.
In 1947, the company's renown for innovation was boosted by the arrival of Illy's son, Ernesto. A chemistry graduate, he created an illy research lab and collaborated with scientific centres and international universities.
The Illy family's dedication to the science of coffee is also matched by its involvement in the art of coffee. In the early 90s, Ernesto's son Francesco took the opportunity to commission artist Matteo Thun when the company was looking to redesign its coffee cups.
Since then, artists such as Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor have interpreted the vessel, producing limited-edition designs as part of the illy Art Collection, an initiative extended to its coffee containers. Illy has continued to expand its relationship with the art world through galleries, installations and events around the world.
The family business, now led by Ernesto's son, Andrea, also a scientist, continues its commitment to coffee excellence, with an estimated 30% share of the quality-coffee market in Europe and the US. About 6m cups of illy coffee are served every day, in 50,000 restaurants and coffee bars across 140 countries.
BRAND LESSON BY JAMES JOICE, CLIENT DIRECTOR, JKR
As a coffee-lover, it is a treat to write about illy. …