Brexit doesn’t intimidate Italian food and beverage producers

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Some of the products showcased at 2016 Real Italian Food and Wine. Pics: Valle Fiorita/Caputo/Solleone Bio
Some of the products showcased at 2016 Real Italian Food and Wine. Pics: Valle Fiorita/Caputo/Solleone Bio

Related tags Ancient grains Snack foods Dried fruit

Italian producers strutted their stuff at 2016 Real Italian Wine & Food (RIWF) in London last week, unconcerned about the effects of Brexit

A sophisticated market such as the UK cannot be ignored, especially when taking into account its proximity to, and links with Italy. So contended the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), organizers of RIWF.

This sentiment was reiterated by many of the exhibitors who showcased products that included wines, cheeses, olives, oils, baked goods and snacks. Despite a shaky outlook thanks to Brexit, all were positive and interested in establishing business relations in the UK.

Nuts about snacking

Pina Santucci, commercial sales for Caputo, told BakeryAndSnacks that she expects the company to do well in the UK.

“It’s quite possible to sell in the UK,” ​she said, adding that, although the effects of Brexit are unknown, Caputo will do its best to ensure its prices remain competitive.

Vincenzo Caputo Srl is a family-owned operation that specializes in manufacturing and packing dried fruit and nuts since 1930. Now in its third generation under Angelo Caputo, the €10m ($10.58m) snack maker is a big contender on the Italian market.

Based in Somma Vesuviana near Naples, the 12,000m2​ plant turns over 150 tons of production daily. Six production lines are kept busy with the company’s 15 product lines, but there’s room to grow and Caputo plans to extend its range next year. The BRC, IFS and ISO 9001:2008-certified manufacturer also packs private label lines.

While ingredients are sourced both locally and internationally, Santucci explained the company’s commitment to promote regional products. Its two main core products are walnuts from Sorrento and hazelnuts from Giffoni.

Containing no preservatives, or added salt or sugar, the range is segmented into dried nuts, dried fruits shelled, toasted dried fruit, dried fruit, bulk, and snack packs.

The products showcased at RIWF included Che Bella (dried fruit), Mister Ben and Miss Ben (snacks for children and babies) and Feel Good. The latter is a range of mixed fruit, seed and nut snack packs that are high in fiber and contain minerals like magnesium and potassium.

The ‘specialness’ of bread

Already seen on UK supermarket shelves, Valle Fiorita would like to extend its footprint with more speciality bread offerings.

According to Nielsen data, the baked products and fresh filled sandwich company is the third largest in Italy in that category, based on revenue.

The difference, export manager Francesco Galazia told us, is the amount of time and money the company has spent on its R&D with the Italian national research council (CNR) and universities.

The sourdough, for example, is a result of these consolidations, made with three different yeasts that are natural preservatives and extend freshness.

Last year, Valle Fiorita set up a partnership with London-based Crosta & Mollica to distribute PucciaSalentina, a soft bread typical of the southern Apulia region that’s baked on stone in line with tradition. Similar to a pita bread in that it offers a ‘pocket’ for fillings (both sweet and savory), Puccia is currently sold through Waitrose and online retailer Ocado.

“UK sales of Puccia only amount to around 4-5% of our annual turnover, so there’s lots of room to extend our reach in the UK,”​ explained Galazia, adding that while it is experiencing “challenges” with the fluctuating exchange rate, the company will be spending more money on marketing campaigns to grow its market share in the UK.

“The value of the pound changes so regularly. It has to find a balance and then we will know the effect of Brexit,” ​he said.

Two products that Galazia predicts will appeal to UK tastes are Pansurprise, a panettone that, unlike the traditional Italian variety, is made without sugar and comes pre-sliced; and Pizza Scorck, a thin, crispy pizza base.

The company is celebrating its 20th​ anniversary next year and is developing a new line of frozen products to launch in January, especially for the UK and US markets.

Going organic

Simonetta Ratti of Solleone Bio SpA, a producer of organic foods and snacks, told this site that, while she doesn’t know what effect Brexit will have on business, something will change.

“UK is a very interesting market and we want to have a presence here, so we’ll have to find a middle ground; a compromise,”​ she said.

Based in Valdengo-Piedmonte, the company produces a wide range of products from honey to vegan pasta sauces, vegetable snacks in oil and pasta made from ancient grains, all based on the concept of originality. For example, Sicilian Caponata uses the recipe and ingredients from the area.

Ratti explained the pasta range uses only ancient grains, such as spelt, saragolla and Khorasa, among others. Next to the company’s 6,000m2​ factory is 2.2ha (5.44 acres) of land on which these grains are cultivated.

“We’re very focused on health,”​ she said. “Ancient grains are GMO free, and are low in gluten and glycemic index making them highly digestible.”

Another key element is using low firing temperatures to preserve the nutritional properties and organoleptic qualities of a product. For example, the pastas are slow dried over 72 hours (instead of the typical five hours at high heat).

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