CEO Les Schirato
Les Schirato, who is recognised as Australia’s ‘Coffee King’, heads Vittoria Coffee and has an entrepreneurial flair that has seen him awarded with a number of accolades such as Entrepreneur of the Year in 2001.
At the age of 16, Cantarella Bros first employed Les part-time during the school holidays. Later, he began working full time in 1972. After 4 years, Les left to work with David’s Holding and then Fiat Australia as Sales Manager.
Rejoining Cantarella Bros in 1981 in sales and marketing positions, Les introduced Vittoria Coffee into supermarkets at a time when coffee meant an instant beverage, and espresso coffee was considered too strong for the Australian palate.
“They just laughed at me and said, ‘Australians will never drink strong coffee - you’re wasting your time’. In fact I got kicked out of every supermarket in Australia”, says Schirato. Today the pure coffee category is worth over $135 million.
Les Schirato was appointed as Cantarella Group Managing Director in 1993 and has seen revenue grow to $170m in 2008. An expanding export market is also fuelling business growth.
Les’ unprecedented success in achieving this growth in the very competitive pure coffee market is no accident. His energy, drive and passion nearing almost 30 years combined with his sales and marketing expertise, has heralded an immense growth in the popularity of espresso coffee in Australia.
An industry leader, Les served as President of the Australian Coffee and Tea Association, a member of the Young Presidents Organisation, Australian Food and Grocery Council, Australian Institute of Directors and the Australian Marketing Institute.
Les' passion for assisting charities and community initiatives is reflected in Vittoria Coffee's ongoing support through donations and sponsorship of events.
In 2008 Les’s contributions to the community was recognised when he was awarded a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the community through philanthropic contributions to health, youth, church and social welfare organisations and to business.
This is timely recognition for his wide ranging commitment and contributions to the community.