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Competitive advantage through innovation: the case of Nespresso

Alexander Brem (University of Southern Denmark, Sønderborg, Denmark)
Maximilian Maier (Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany)
Christine Wimschneider (Friedrich-Alexander-University, Nuremberg, Germany)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 11 January 2016




The purpose of this paper is to describe how Nespresso achieved competitive advantage through innovation by changing the rules of the game in its industry.


Nespresso was analyzed based on public available secondary data, in combination with related academic concepts on innovation and competitive advantage.


The company succeeded by the thorough application of a strategy that, through perfect alignment, allowed the company to reach a unique market position. However, as described in the case, it took a relatively long time and the company came close to failure several times. Before the current situation of the company, it remains challenging in the future as well. Hence, the Nespresso story provides interesting space for discussion and learning about what innovation is, how innovation emerges, and under which circumstances innovation can serve as a source for competitive advantage.

Research limitations/implications

Especially given the current market situation, the case offers different starting points for discussion about innovation and long-term company success.

Practical implications

Especially before the current market situation, the case offers different starting points for discussion about innovation and the success of a company on the long term. The case is designed to give practitioners a better understanding on what an innovation as, and how competitive advantages can be linked to innovation.


This case of Nespresso is a unique combination of the concepts of innovation and competitive advantage. It serves as an example of an innovation, which was not successful from the scratch, but evolved over time and is still developing. As many innovations went through such a non-linear process, this case offers interesting lessons learned for academics as well as for practitioners.



Brem, A., Maier, M. and Wimschneider, C. (2016), "Competitive advantage through innovation: the case of Nespresso", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 133-148.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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