How Espresso House ensures that its offering is much more than a coffee and cake break 

In 1996, Charles and Elisabet Asker opened the door to the very first Espresso House in Lund in Sweden. Offering something completely different to most cafes at the time, Espresso House was a new concept with a cozy and welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy coffee in a new way. Charles and Elisabet Asker founded the company on two important cornerstones: quality and passion. It became the basis for the culture that still characterizes the company today. In the beginning, they baked everything at home in their own kitchen, using the family’s own recipes. Today, Espresso House is part of JAB Holding BV, having grown into a leading brand in premium coffee in the Nordics with 500 shops in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Germany.

“We are proud of Espresso House. It’s a unique company that manages to encompass community, quality, and service,” begins Anssi Thureson, CEO. “Our founders wanted to create a cozy space where people could hang out and enjoy handcrafted quality beverages in a relaxing atmosphere with a Nordic vibe. Our interiors, music, and lighting combine to create this unique ambience and of course, our people are really what brings the brand to life.”

Anssi Thureson, CEO Espresso House

Quality and taste
Espresso House is proud to serve world-class coffee among many other food and beverage offerings, and ensures it stays ahead of trends thanks to inspiration and embracing ingredient innovations from esteemed suppliers, like Délifrance and Van Houten. Furthermore, the company’s promise is to provide quality products in a sustainable way. Anssi gives more details: “We currently operate in five different markets, and we are truly a beverage destination. We have a broad selection of different beverages. While cappuccino and flat white will always be popular choices, we’re seeing an increase in the popularity of other options, such as our frapino, iced teas and frozen lemonades. Interestingly, chai latte is one of the top sellers in Sweden. We strive to ensure that our offering is locally relevant, and particularly so, in terms of our food options.

“We have been working hard over the last few years,” he continues. “As a company, we are in a favorable position to meet new market trends, which tend to hit the hospitality sector first before filtering down to grocery stores. We started working with oat milk and coconut milk drinks years ago. Today, approximately 50 percent of our menu is plant-based. Our aim is to inspire our guests to try new things, and while we are dedicated to meeting the plant-based product demand, quality and taste will always come first. We have our own bakery and have succeeded in creating impressive vegan pastries that people don’t even recognize as such,” Anssi enthuses.

‘Brew your Future’
Espresso House is clearly hitting the mark with customers new and old, and enjoying ongoing growth in existing and new markets. “We recently signed a franchise agreement in Germany with a father-and-son family business, which marks our first franchise agreement, and opened our second location together a few days ago. We are planning to open 50 new shops in the northwest region of Germany, so the Düsseldorf area, over the next five years. We constantly monitor new markets to find the best fit for business expansion. As of this year, our main expansion will be through franchise agreements. If we partner with the right local businesses, we’ll be better positioned to succeed locally.

“We are a people company, and it’s our people who shape the culture in the business today. Our business is for people and driven by people and that is important to us and meaningful in terms of guest interaction. All the magic happens in the coffee shops, and we strive to figure out how to provide the best possible working conditions for our people in the shops, as well as giving them the right tools with which to work. The world is changing. While we work digitally like every other company, I think some of the more traditional practices are increasingly important, such as greeting people and smiling. Our employer value proposition is “Brew your Future.” As the first employer for many young people, we have a big responsibility, and we want to be the employer of choice. Young people today are extremely intelligent, so it’s important to show them the impact their work has on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people.”

Alongside people, Espresso House is equally committed to the planet. In addition to its plant-based offering, the business also partners with suppliers that are committed to sustainability initiatives. “We work with our partners to reduce the use of plastic in our shops. For example, replacing the cold beverage plastic cups was a bold move because guests can no longer see the product. However, we were keen to take that step and the feedback from our guests has been amazing. We stopped using plastic straws and cutlery a few years ago, and our goal today is to reduce fossil-based virgin plastics in guest packaging materials to 50 percent by 2025. Alongside this promise, we are constantly looking for materials that are better for the environment. As a user of disposable packaging for food and beverages, we have a big responsibility to balance high quality and functionality with sustainable solutions. In Germany we partnered with a reusable packaging system to enable a circular reusable cup system for our guests, and we are now launching the same service in Sweden. We like to approach business management from the perspective of product, people, and planet, threading sustainability initiatives through all three areas,” he explains.

Social power of coffee
Espresso House’s long-term goal is to always be an open and inviting employer, where everyone has the same opportunities to reach their full potential, and to be accepted for who they are. This will always be a priority for the business. For many of its employees, Espresso House has given them more than just a job; they have found friends for life, laughed and been able to be themselves. Espresso House offers a working climate where people are included, seen, and part of a team working towards the same goal. The company strives to ensure that this is how its guests feel too. With its CupTogether initiative, started in 2021, Espresso House has launched a long-term commitment to break taboos and fight loneliness in society.

“A few years ago, we were looking at our community support initiatives and trying to make our efforts more cohesive. Our employee survey results helped us to work out what we wanted to focus on. The issue of loneliness came to the fore. Still taboo in our societies and an increasing problem in all our communities, as a big chain, we have a responsibility to do what is within our reach to fight loneliness. With our CupTogether initiative, we want to provide a warm and safe place for people to meet. We believe in the social power of coffee.”

This Christmas, Espresso House is taking its commitment to fighting loneliness to a new level; this time with the CupTogether cup. This special cup, with its bright green color and unique design, acts as a symbol that signals that the user is open to a chat with a stranger. Proceeds from cup sales will go to local associations that work to reduce loneliness in the communities where the company operates. Espresso House strives to make a difference and spread joy to those who need it most.

“In 2022, for example, we were named as the Best Coffee Chain in the Nordic region in the European Coffee Symposium’s European Coffee Awards. I’m exceptionally proud of this type of acknowledgement, and we want to strengthen in this way as a company, while maintaining our flat organizational structure. Going into 2024, we will focus on ensuring our coffee shop managers have the tools to thrive in the business together with their teams. We want to ensure they have even stronger foundations for the year ahead. As a company, while we are an ambitious and global brand, there is something unique in our Nordic approach that sets us apart. We want to strengthen our foundation as a people company and trusted brand. Moving forward, we will carry on doing what we’ve been doing since 1996, which is creating a great experience for our guests, taking great care of our people and contributing positively to our communities and wider society,” Anssi concludes.