Micaela Illy has joined Prestat as Chief Operating Officer. She's represents the fourth generation of the Illy family and will undertake work in areas not related to coffee production. High accomplished, Micaela holds a masters degree in Management from the London Business School and an undergraduate degree in Biology with Management at Imperial College London.
Now she takes the helm of Prestat, London's upscale chocolate brand established in 1902 by Master Chocolatier Antoine Dufour. It trades from a tiny boutique nestled inside Princes Arcade in St. James's, London, but also operates a larger production facility in Park Royal, West London.
Its claim to fame, besides its royal warrant, is that one of its customers happened to be Roald Dahl, who is said to have drawn inspiration from the brand's famous truffles for his adult novel My Uncle Oswald°.
I chatted to Andrea Macchione, Chairman of Prestat, to discover what is in store for this brand, now that it is about to receive new innovative ideas and a fresh outlook.
Aims & Ambitions
What are your aims and ambitions for the brand?
Our ambition is to further enhance the incredible heritage of Prestat: it's a brand synonymous with quality, tradition, romanticism, colour, elegance. These are all assets to be fully explored, targeting new audiences and new segments of young consumers.
The outstanding quality of Prestat Chocolate, made with the finest Cacao by Domori, will give new strength to the identity of the Brand, which is strongly committed to the pureness of ingredients and sustainability of cultivations.Andrea Macchione
Prestat holds a royal warrant and has an established reputation amongst a discerning clientele. How do you introduce new ideas into the business without alienating existing customers?
The Royal Warrant is today held by Riccardo Illy: this is something new in the history of Prestat! We believe that our dedication to quality and improvements, to researching new flavours and recipes, will attract new and different kinds of customers and friends.
Prestat is about sharing; it's a brand that offers so many ideas in term of gifts and happy moments: it's something that fosters attention and curiosity.Andrea Macchione
Where do you see the Prestat brand in five years’ time? What does success look like to you?
In my best forecasts, I do see an internationally positioned Brand, with a fresher identity and a stronger perception of its timeless appeal. An iconic brand and a true must for special occasions.Andrea Macchione
Synergy & Collabs
Prestat now sits under the Domori & Polo del Gusto umbrella. Do you think there is scope for collaborative opportunities between Prestat and other group brands, incorporating chocolate with ingredients such as tea from Damman Frères, red wine from Mastrojanni and artisanal confectionary from Agrimontana?
There are plenty of opportunities for the Brands belonging to the Illy Group’s sub-holding centred on the "Gusto" project!
These Brands do share a common background in excellency: despite all differences, they all belong to the top-premium market segment.
They will benefit from a wider and inclusive strategy of international growth and market analysis. It's a beautiful project, rich in potential and worldwide developments.Andrea Macchione
What about collaborative opportunities with Illy? Could we see Illy coffee-infused chocolates on sale at Prestat soon, or Prestat-branded hot chocolates pods or capsules that are compatible with Illy’s coffee machines, perhaps?
Being a historic Brand does not prevent us from innovation and creativity. We will see where that leads us!Andrea Macchione
Domori perhaps offers the greatest synergy with Prestat. Do you envisage the two brands collaborating to develop new fine chocolate ranges for Prestat?
Domori and Prestat are really the perfect matches.
Domori provides Prestat with the finest raw material, while Prestat produces pralines and truffles with its famous recipes.
The integration does work smoothly and contributes to enhancing both.Andrea Macchione
Ethics & The Environment
Many chocolate brands are seeking to make their supply chains fully traceable to ensure they are free from illegal labour. What steps will Prestat take to ensure its ingredients are responsibly and ethically sourced?
Prestat's ingredients come from Domori. Since its very foundation, Domori has always performed the most rigorous control over the whole supply chain: we are famous for the "bean-to-bar" process or rather, when referring to Prestat, the "bean-to-truffle" process.
We do supervise every single step and we are extremely selective in choosing, and maintaining, our partnerships on a local basis.Andrea Macchione
Packaging is also another hot topic at the moment. What steps will Prestat take to ensure all its packaging is fully recyclable or reusable?
As soon as we will complete the integration process, which is currently taking up most of our energies and resources, we will assess some measures to further reduce the impact.Andrea Macchione
Besides the factory in Park Royal, Prestat’s only other location is a tiny-yet-quaint boutique in Piccadilly, London. The impact of COVID-19 restrictions has been especially devastating to high street businesses in the last year. Does Prestat plan to invest in opening more boutiques in the coming years as the economy bounces back, or do you see its growth being driven by digital sales?
For the time being, we focus our efforts in optimizing the online e-shop, while endeavouring to promote international dissemination of the Brand.
This is not the right time to think of new openings but rather to develop our presence in new markets. Japan, the US and the Middle East are three areas that are showing the greatest interest in our style and products.Andrea Macchione
Is Brexit a hindrance or an opportunity for Prestat?
Prestat will play its own part in contributing to a positive restart: more than Brexit, it's the post-pandemic scenarios that are shaping the moods and the expectations of countries. We like to think that the silver lining is getting closer and closer.Andrea Macchione
Finishing on a lighter note, I asked Andrea what his favourite product is in the current Prestat range. He raved about the Dark English Mint Thins, describing them as "tremendously tasty and invigorating!" You can find them here (£21.60; 200g).
Thank you to Andrea Macchione for taking the time to share his thoughts on Prestat's future with Chocolatier.co.uk. Thank you to Diego for making this interview happen. I wish Micaela Illy the best of luck in her new role and look forward to seeing the changes roll down the tracks.
Which Prestat product is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.