“100 Years of Community Engagement: The Regenerative Roots of Morettino Coffee” – Christian Sarkar, Enrico Foglia, and Philip Kotler
In a previous article we described regenerative marketing as marketing practices which nurture communities and build local prosperity over the long term. Now, we study the community regeneration aspects of Morettino coffee, a Sicilian institution for over 100 years.
The Morettino family‘s passion for coffee began in 1920 in their family spice shop located in the historic district San Lorenzo ai Colli in Palermo. Over the years, the artisanal production process, the fine art of blending select coffee beans, became a signature brand for Palermo’s middle class and the city’s historic cafés.
Morettino: A Regenerative Organization
The story of Morettino coffee is synonymous with quality, culture, and tradition. The company has remained in the neighborhood it was born in, and its leadership still live on the company premises. This closeness to the community is not an accident, It is part of the strategy devised by the founder, when he would spend mornings cycling around the neighborhood, listening to Palermitans and their daily concerns.
Being part of the community was not enough. The process is based on a continuous dialogue between the business and the community, followed by an integration of purpose, which in turn leads to community regeneration. Thus, a regenerative business is in the business of building local trust.
A regenerative business is place-based, builds community wealth, improves social cohesion and inclusivity – creating a just future for the community.
The Morettino vision is to create and sustain community conversations – bringing neighborhoods together – creating genuine community cohesion. This is one reason for its “slow growth” strategy and its commitment to neighborhood cafes and employment for its citizens. From Zen – a rougher Palermitan neighborhood – to the stately Palazzos of Palermo, the people drink Morettino’s historic coffee. It is in some ways a cultural narrative which goes back to the roots of coffee culture – the African and Arabic roots of coffee culture – born in Ethiopia, and spread over the world. In Islamic cultures, where alcohol is forbidden, coffee is ” the wine of Allah” – a gift to mankind.
To put coffee culture in perspective, Starbucks’ “third place” strategy was a deliberate and conscious effort by Howard Schultz to bring this sense of community, which he encountered in Italian coffee houses, to the United States in a commercial way.
Morettino’s 100 year-strong regenerative strategy has been to empower local owners – the cafes, bars, and restaurants – to build spaces and create value for these small businesses. Today there are around 500 such small neighborhood enterprises, each with their own unique history – united by the Morettino coffee experience. Morettino also supports innovative social startups like Moltivolti and Al Fresco Bistrot, by providing them with the equipment needed to provide quality coffee to their customers.
Coffee Supports Culture
In Palermo, at the crossroads of the cultures of the Mediterranean, the Morettino family continues to make good on the promise of community. “I Caffè di Sicilia” is an experimental project focusing on the cultural landmarks of Palermo and Sicily, a project developed though collaboration and constant dialogue with other community institutions, such as the Federico II Foundation, the Teatro Massimo Foundation, and Coop Culture, the largest cooperative operating in the culture sector in Italy.
Each blend preserves the aromas and flavors of the region to which they are dedicated: the blend dedicated to the Royal Palace, for example, expresses notes of orange blossom and bitter orange marmalade, the one inspired by the Cathedral accents of jasmine and prickly pears, and the blend created to represent the the Duomo of Monreale expresses the mandarins from the Conca d’Oro. Most importantly, in terms of regeneration, a portion of the profits of each sale go towards supporting the cultural landmarks.
The project has wider-ranging plans, which in the future will involve the Morettino Coffee Museum and Coffee School through educational initiatives, which will include collaborative projects with the Municipality of Palermo.
Another regenerative initiative embraced by the Morettinos is their School of Coffee which organizes coffee lessons dedicated to coffee lovers (not just coffee makers), with the goal of spreading authentic coffee culture. The goal of “Bartender Jobs” is to give new job prospects to the best bartenders in Sicily and the rest of Italy. A way of giving hope to the youth and others looking for work, the initiative is also an opportunity for bar, cafes and clubs owners to select passionate and competent staff. Morettino organizes coffee lessons dedicated to coffee lovers (not just coffee makers), with the goal of spreading authentic coffee culture.
Morettino also collaborates with Università di Palermo and Orto Botanico on their Coffee plantation project, Museo internazionale delle marionette for the campaign “Morettino per i Pupi siciliani” (we financed the restoration of ancient Sicilian puppets and the “Pupari” during the lockdown in 2020). Morettino also collaborates with Fondazione Merz to reopen the Zac contemporary art pavilion in Cantieri culturali della Zisa in Palermo.
Cultivating Sicilian Coffee
Another expression of local regeneration is the Morettino vision to grow coffee on the island of Sicily. For just over 30 years, the Morettinos tried cultivating coffee plants in their own neighborhood – 350 meters above sea level – in the small village of San Lorenzo ai colli, in Palermo. The 60 Arabica Coffee plants came from seeds donated in the 90s from the Botanical Gardens in Palermo.
Arturo (right) and Andrea (left) Morettino
As the company reached its centennial, something surprising happened. The Morettino coffee plantation produced 30 kg (about 60 lbs) of coffee – “Made in Italy.” The remarkable thing is that the plants grew in the open air, without using pesticides or green houses: a native Sicilian coffee.
Balancing Business and Community Value
The Morettino commitment to slow coffee and to the conversations engendered by coffee is reflected in its regenerative business model. Business value creation is coupled to nurturing community value:
Perhaps the most remarkable thing after 100 years of success, is the enthusiasm for the future. The Morettino story is still just beginning.
Christian Sarkar is the editor of this site, and is a co-founder of the Regenerative Marketing Institute with Enrico Foglia and Philip Kotler.