Lavazza expanding into U.S. grocery store specialty coffee
* Four new retail blends not expected to boost Lavazza's bean volume
* Lavazza will face strong competition in U.S. grocery stores
* Lavazza's Rivo Keurig System still in infancy
By Marcy Nicholson
NEW YORK, May 14 (Reuters) - Italy's Lavazza is joining the ranks of Starbucks and Gevalia in the highly competitive specialty coffee section on grocery store shelves as the nearly 120-year-old roaster makes another push into the U.S. and Canadian consumer markets.
The family run business, a brand little-known by North American consumers that has been supplying its Italian-roasted brews primarily to U.S. restaurants for years, will launch four specialty blends of bagged coffee in September as a part of its international expansion.
The company aims to boost international sales to 50 percent of its total, up from the current 46 percent, said Ennio Ranaboldo, chief executive of Lavazza North America.
While the move is unlikely to boost Lavazza's coffee volumes significantly in the near term, the United States could in time become its second-biggest market after Italy, its flagship market. Currently, the U.S market ranks fifth or sixth, Ranablodo said, and France is its second-biggest market.
"The U.S. and Canada are a priority for Lavazza. The U.S. ... is still the richest, most dynamic coffee market in the world," he said. Continued...