Some Fascinating Facts about the Italian Food & Drink Business

When you think of Italy, you think of food. The beautiful country is a feast for the eyes and, well, a feast for lovers of good food. Bringing such delights as pizza and pasta to the world, food is engrained in their culture and approached with unmatched passion and expertise. They live to eat, not eat to live, and that ethos translates to business too. 

The peninsula has a giant export market.  Parmigiano cheese, Parma Ham and Mozzarella are just a few delectable delicacies that the world can’t get enough of. Top that with the fact that their coffee culture has inspired the menus of cafes the world over, and you’ve got food and drink business that’s worth getting involved in. Here’re some fascinating facts about it. 

Less chains, more independence 

Italians are traditionally very sceptical of chain restaurants, and the numbers show. Stats from PWC show that the chains penetration rate in Italy in 2017 was a mere 6.8%, far below the European average of 22% and global average of 26.8%. This means that most restaurants are independent and family-run, giving space for growth. 

So, you might think that new chains have to preserve a traditional character to be welcomed by Italians. Though, with the recent success of Starbucks in Milan after a near 50-year absence, this trend could be shifting. 

World Leader in Export of Food Processing Machinery 

According to Prometeia, Italy exports over 3.5bn worth of food processing machines and equipment,  giving them a 16.1% market share – the highest of any country. This is mostly related to the cereal supply chain, and the processing of tomatoes and wine (so all the good stuff). The crazy part is the rapid growth. Their foreign sales soared by 48% since 2007, and their leading position doesn’t look like slipping because of the highly specialized character of their products. Let’s breakdown the particular type of machinery they export the most: 

  • Bakery Machinery: Italy exports €774m worth, trumping Germany’s second highest total of €284m.
  • Machinery for industrial preparation of fruits, nuts or vegetables: Italy exports €142m worth, just beating Netherlands (€136m) and the USA (€7m).
  • Machinery for preparing or making up tobacco: Italy exports €281m worth, far above Poland’s €111m total.
  • Presses, crushers and similar machinery used to manufacture wine: Italy exports €75m worth, beating China’s €53m.

These are just a few examples of Italy’s world-beating expertise and craftsmanship. 

Online Food Shopping is Tiny but Growing

When it comes to ordering food online, the Italians are slow to join the party. According to Statista, the market has generated $713m of revenue in 2019. Doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s remarkably low when compared to Germany ($1.6bn), Spain ($2.7bn), France ($8.3bn) and the UK ($13bn). This leads back to the country’s love of tradition – and maybe the convenience of online shopping doesn’t match up to quality assurances you can get in store. 

Despite the relatively small market, it’s growing. Revenue’s up 21.3% since last year, and the number of users up 10.2%. It’s also set to have an annual growth rate of 14.5% through until 2023. So, there’s still tons of opportunity. 

That’s not all…

The Italian food and drink market is not only wonderful to experience as a tourist, but also as a career. There’re huge opportunities for budding businessmen and businesswomen to climb the career ladder in one of the world’s leading countries for food production. An MBA in Food and Beverage management at Bologna Business School in Italy would be the first step. 

This could be your chance to not only get involved in the industry, but help it grow. 

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