In this era of uncertainty, one thing still holds true: consumers are looking for authentic, delicious, quality foods they can trust. Matteo Picariello, Italian Trade Commissioner to Canada, explains why Made in Italy products deliver on all fronts.
Why is food authenticity important to Canadian consumers?
A 2019 Nielsen survey showed that authentic Italian products registered a major growth across categories such as pasta, charcuterie, canned tomatoes and sauces. This is despite relatively small value share, which proves that Canadians are willing to pay premium prices for authentic Italian products. Products without Italian brand messaging (whether authentic or non-authentic) are seeing either modest growth or declines. Sales growth for authentic Italian products exceed 16%, while Italian sounding are more than 5% and mainstream 2%.
It is important for Canadian consumers to know where their products come from and whether they are legally guaranteed by the European Union to be "authentic," or made in the original town or region with real ingredients. These IGP and DOP labels mark quality and guarantee the product is produced, processed and packaged in a specific geographical zone and according to tradition.
Can we expect to see more Italian imports in the coming year, even with COVID-19?
Yes. We conducted a survey through the major importers and distributors of Italian products to measure the impacts of COVID-19 on the Made in Italy products and the results were very positive. More than 80% of respondents want to maintain their relationships with Italian suppliers, 36% believe the demand post COVID-19 will remain unchanged and 53% foresee a low to medium decline in the consumption of Italian products. Furthermore, recent data published by Statistics Canada showed a rise for almost all the products imported from Italy. Cheese, for example, was up 18%, while pasta grew 28%. Because of the lockdown, our export of wines to Canada did decrease 8%. But that said, we do not anticipate any branding and reputation problems linked to the pandemic for Made In Italy Products going forward.
What initiatives do you have underway for grocery in Canada for the coming year?
In our pipeline for next year, we have promotions with Walmart and Eataly in Toronto to promote Italian products and raise awareness of their authenticity. The promotion will include in-store communication and digital marketing, as well as masterclasses on all the Italian products (e.g., pasta, charcuterie, cheese, wines and even Italian mixology) which will happen in-store or virtually, depending on the situation.
How can grocers better promote Made in Italy products in their stores?
Continually training staff is key so they can answer customer questions appropriately. It’s important that staff understand the difference between “Made in Italy” and Italian-sound products. Grocer should also have visible signage to highlight these products and, when circumstances allow, they should provide some well-executed in-store tastings so customers can get a first-hand taste of these high-quality products.