Multi-award-winning specialty coffee leader, Veneziano Coffee Roasters is celebrating 20 years of shaping and defining Australia’s specialty coffee scene. To commemorate the milestone, Co-Founders and specialty coffee stalwarts Rocky Veneziano and Craig Dickson reflect on the journey – and they’ll be giving away hundreds of free coffees, too.
Veneziano Coffee Roasters has been spearheading the evolution and innovation of specialty coffee in Australia since its inception. They were one of the first to direct trade coffee in Australia through developing relationships with farmers at origin underpinning their sustainable coffee model. Not only were they one of the first large-scale Australian roasters to go carbon-neutral, the team also actively advocated for transparency and education around the specialty coffee scene, transforming coffee from a habit for caffeinated survival, to a celebrated experience intrinsic to iconic Melbourne culture.
Now a hugely successful coffee brand, Veneziano’s group annual turnover currently sits between $55m – $60m with 80-tonnes of green coffee beans being roasted per week and 40-million tonnes since 2002. The business is servicing over 1000 cafes and restaurants nationally as well as having opened four Veneziano owned and operated cafe and training studios across Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
In the early stages of the pandemic, while most companies were struggling to navigate a new normal, Veneziano doubled down on the amplification of its online store.
“Since we started, there hasn’t been a year where we didn’t experience business growth so in that respect, we were quite fortunate. Luckily, before the pandemic we had been working on the e-comm side of the business which means we were able to pivot quickly when people went into lockdown; we could continue providing that special daily coffee ritual, albeit from people’s homes,” said Craig.
In 2019, the online Veneziano store which sells a large variety of coffee, coffee brewing equipment and coffee machines for the home or office, was turning over $200k – $300k. By the end of 2022,
Veneziano’s online store is expected to generate $1m worth of sales.
Often referred to as ‘the odd couple’ by their friends and family, Co-Founders Craig and Rocky came from different ends of the business spectrum. Craig acquired a University degree before
cutting his teeth in the corporate world working at various global coffee brands, while Rocky learnt the ropes on the job in his entrepreneurial ventures opening various Melbourne cafe and restaurant businesses.
With two decades of business now under their belts, Craig and Rocky put their success down to complete trust and respect for each other, continual innovation and living by their ‘Everyday Evolution’ mantra.
The duo launched the business out of a tiny Bond St, Abbotsford warehouse in 2002, a time when the speciality coffee scene was still in its infancy. Back then, the Melbourne specialty coffee scene was only just getting started and Veneziano were up against a handful of competing businesses, compared to over 600 specialty roasters in Australia currently.
During these early days of the business, Veneziano Coffee Roasters was primarily focused on the wholesale side of the business – roasting and supplying coffee to cafes around the country. Their point of difference however was ; working with these cafe owners and coffee businesses to educate them on the importance and benefits of quality coffee, to ultimately improve their offering.
“In the beginning, we were one of the very few specialty coffee roasters, and we were rapidly gaining market share where it was historically owned by traditional coffee brands, predominantly because of our extra service offerings and ensuring business owners really understood how to sell coffee,” said Craig.
“We really put more of a focus on educating business owners and consumers about quality, specialty coffee. We worked very hard on changing the perception of the value of a cup of coffee, both in increasing brand perception to help cafe owners grow their business, and changing the consumer mindset from seeing coffee as a quick fix, to a holistic, almost ceremonial experience,” he said.
When the two entrepreneurs went into business together in 2002, they were roasting almost 300kgs of coffee per week with one other employee. Now, twenty years later, Veneziano’s growth and expansion is nothing short of incredible with 125 staff members and a staggering 80,000 kgs of coffee being roasted every week.
“With our current production volumes, we’re roasting enough beans to make the equivalent of around 340-million lattes per year. This still blows our minds,” said Craig.
“We are also immensely proud of our cafes and roasting locations – some of the first to offer transparency and invite curiosity. For the public to be able to come in and see the beans being roasted, to view the whole process up until the point where the sip on their latte made with those same beans, is pretty special.”
Craig believes that winning their first Australian Barista Championship in 2006 firmly placed Veneziano on the map. The team has gone on to consistently win an impressive (and extensive) array of awards since then, with Craig having been President of the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (ASCA), in addition to a certified World Barista Judge, World Latte Art Judge and World Brewers Cup Judge. This experience and exposure to global best practice has only further served in bolstering the business’ training and development capability, while maintaining world-class standards and rapid growth.
“We’re very humbled by Veneziano’s reputation amongst Australia’s aspiring baristas; they want to join the team and learn from the best and we’re so grateful to have had coffee royalty like Dave Makin, Craig Simon, Jade Jennings and Dan Shadbolt blazing the trail as part of the Veneziano team,” said Craig.
“The key for us now is to continue giving back to the industry; to offer unparalleled training to those who are excited by the illustrious careers and the many different pathways that coffee can offer. We’re excited by what’s ahead and we look forward to bringing Australia’s coffee enthusiasts on that journey with us.”
To celebrate the team’s ‘everyday evolution’, Veneziano’s continued success in the Australian coffee market and to say thank you to the communities that have supported them throughout the years, Veneziano will be giving away free cups of coffee in all four of their cafes on Wednesday, September 21st.
For more information on Veneziano Coffee Roasters, visit www.venezianocoffee.com.au.