Lavazza backs coffee portal

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ROME--Italian coffee giant Lavazza is backing an online coffee trading venture, which it expects will become a major player in the $33 billion global coffee market.

Scheduled for late July launch, is based on a concept developed by Lavazza aimed at speeding up coffee buying and keeping prices down. "This will help increase efficiency of most activities related to acquiring the [coffee] product," says Mario Cerutti, director of purchasing at Lavazza. "Coffee buying will become quick."

The venture is different from a regular commodities market, where coffee futures and contracts are regularly bought and sold. With, traders will be able to buy and sell actual bags of coffee and have them shipped immediately. Shipping and weather information will be included among the site's offerings.

Bell Atlantic Corp. and Information Management Consultants are shareholders, though the size of each company's stake was not immediately available.

Lavazza is not taking a majority stake in the venture to ensure trading is "transparent, impartial and open to wide participation."

Lavazza, whose advertising is handled by Milan-based Armando Testa, says it has no immediate plans for an advertising campaign to promote But those plans could change depending on how the market develops.

"Everything is subject to review once the site is up and running," an spokesman says.

Copyright July 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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