Road Map to the Italian Market

An Expert's View about Import Export Trading in Italy

Last updated: 23 Feb 2011

This report offers U.S. companies interested in exporting food and agricultural products to Italy an overview of the country's economic situation, market structure, and export requirements, including best product export opportunities.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY Required Report - public distribution Date: 9/28/2009 GAIN Report Number: IT9027 Italy EXPORTER GUIDE ANNUAL Road Map to the Italian Market Approved By: Jim Dever Prepared By: Dana Biasetti Report Highlights: This report offers U.S. companies interested in exporting food and agricultural products to Italy an overview of the country's economic situation, market structure, and export requirements, including best product export opportunities. Post: Commodities: Rome Executive Summary: Author Defined: Section I. Market Overview Macro Economic Situation & Key Demographic Trends Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK. Most raw materials required by Italian industry, including the food processing sector, and more than 75 percent of energy requirements, are imported. Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Union and is part of the Euro Zone. Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy's rigid labor market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labor unions. But the leadership faces a severe economic constraint: Italy's official debt remains above 100 percent of GDP, and the Berlusconi government has found it difficult to bring the budget deficit down to a level that would allow a rapid decrease in that debt. The Italian economy is driven in large part by the manufacture of high-quality consumer goods produced by small and medium- sized enterprises. Italy also has a sizable underground economy, which by some estimates accounts for as much as 15 percent of GDP. These activities are most common within the agriculture, construction, and service sectors. Italy's official debt remains above 100 percent of GDP, and the fiscal deficit -1.5 percent of GDP in 2007 - could approach 3 percent in 2009 as political pressure to stimulate the economy and the costs of servicing Italy's debt rise. The economy will continue to contract through 2009 as the global demand for exports drop. Italy is one of the largest agricultural producers in the European Union (EU). Its major trading partners in food and agricultural products are EU member states, with neighboring France and Germany each accounting for roughly a fifth of Italy's trade. Italy's major exports consist of wine, olive oil, cheeses, and fruits and vegetables. Italian perception of the place and role of Italian food in the global marketplace ties into the issue of protected designations of origin, or geographic indications, which represent only a small fraction of the value of total food production yet loom large in Italy's national marketing of its food exports as 'high quality and Italian?. On balance, Italy is a net importer of agricultural products. In 2008, Italy imported $1.1 billion of U.S. food and agricultural products. Italy?s total annual food and agriculture imports were more than $40 billion. The EU remains Italy?s most important trading partner with the top five suppliers being France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria, while the main importers of Italy?s goods, in addition to Germany and France, were the United States, followed by the UK and Spain. Wine dominates Italy's food exports, followed by pasta, virgin and extra-virgin olive oil, canned tomatoes, cheese, biscuits and baked goods. The United States is Italy's largest non-EU market. The United States imported more than $3.4 billion worth of Italian food and agricultural products in 2008. Due to its large food processing sector?s need for inputs, Italy has become a net agricultural importing country. Processed food products make up 77 percent of exports and 65 percent of imports. The United States is, for Italy, primarily a supplier of high quality inputs for Italian food processing?wheat for pasta and confectionary, forest products for furniture and housing components, tree nuts for bakery products, seeds for planting, hides and skins, seafood for the restaurant sector, and tobacco. While consumer-ready products also do succeed in this market, the EU's system of making technical conclusions subordinate to political decisions has constrained trade for many U.S. products, but in particular, meats and products containing genetically modified ingredients. Because the export market drives the Italian food processing sector, the economic performance of the world market, and particularly the economic performance of Germany and other northern neighbors, heavily influences Italian business performance. Outside the EU, where Italy competes in global food markets, the weak dollar and strong euro have continued to exert pressure on Italian food export prospects. The notable exception is the United States where Italian wine sales continue to grow in spite of the 'expensive' euro. Italian Importers and Retailers Italian importers are usually small to medium-sized companies, rather than the large, market-dominating types found in northern Europe. Consequently, these companies import smaller volumes and a broader range than their much larger European counterparts. Most imported food products enter the Italian market through brokers or specialized traders. Price is always important, although quality and novelty alone do move some imported products. Imported products from North America often enter Italy indirectly from the Netherlands' Port of Rotterdam, or directly by air. Processed food is primarily distributed through retail grocers, convenience stores and discount grocers. Italian retail chain outlets have started to make their own purchasing decisions. Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Exporters in Italy Advantages Challenges U.S. products are viewed as ?trendy, new and innovative?, Strong cultural presumptions that Italian food products are especially those with added benefits of health and lifestyle. superior to those of foreign suppliers. Ingrained political opposition to modern biotechnology, Growing niche market for ethnic foods. Italians are which leads distribution chains to avoid GMO products. traveling more, becoming aware of foreign cuisines. Weak dollar versus a strong EURO favors U.S. exports. The detention of U.S. products by Italian border inspectors for not conforming to EU sanitary standards. U.S. fast food chains, theme restaurants, and the food Need to develop and invest in the relationship with the processing industry are demanding U.S. origin ingredients. Italian trade contacts and the marketing of the product. Supermarket and hypermarket shelf space and product placement is expensive. Section II. Exporter Business Tips Trade Regulations, Customs and Standards As a member of the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) governs Italy?s agricultural sector. Similarly, Italy employs the same tariffs and border measures as the other EU member states. Product imported into Italy must meet all Italian and EU food safety and quality standards, as well as labeling and packaging regulations. It is important to work with experienced importers, and/or have an agent to work with Italian regulatory authorities to ensure the acceptability of specific products. Personal relationships and language ability are of value when conducting business transactions. It is also advisable for the agent to contact health authorities at the port of entry as interpretation of health directives may vary from port to port. For more information on Product Trade Restrictions, Food Standards and Regulations, please refer to Post?s FAIRS GAIN Report IT9021. Section III. Market Sector Structure and Trends The Italian Food Retail Sector Italians spend an enormous amount of their disposable income on food, beverages and tobacco (more than 20%). In 2007 household expenditure in Italy on food and drink (including alcoholic beverages) was approximately $187 billion. The results were mainly due to increases in the price of food due to an increase in the price of raw materials (mainly cereals) and the cost of energy In Italy there are 3.42 million foreign residents and food retail outlets have started to cater to these consumers with more foreign and ethnic foods, but these offerings remain small in the face of traditional Italian cuisine. With Europe's Muslim population growing rapidly, halal butcher shops and restaurants are becoming more commonplace, and there is an increased crossover between Muslim and non-Muslim cuisine. More than 1 million Muslims now live in Italy, and, according to reports, halal foods are making inroads into the local cuisine alongside North African and Middle Eastern spices. Continuing tendencies toward smaller families, later marriages, and an increasing number of women in the workforce are resulting in food retail outlets offering more ready-made, ready-to-serve products and a wider range of products. Italian households still prefer fresh rather than frozen and frozen to canned food, as shopping frequency is greater in Italy than in many other European markets. The main groups in modern retailing in Italy are the following with a total of 32,279 outlets: Centrale Italiana - (COOP, Despar, Sigma, Il Gigante) Centrale CONAD - (Conad, Standa-Rewe, Interdis) Esd Italia - (Selex, Esselunga, Agora?) Gruppo Carrefour - (Carrefour, Finiper) Sisa-Coralis - (Sisa, Coralis) Auchan/Intermedia - (Bennet, Pam, Crai, Lombardini, Auchan) C3 Lidl Eurospin Geographically speaking, the number of food outlets showed the greatest increases in the Center. Italian food retailing is still very fragmented and dominated by a high number of small to medium-sized outlets. Most of the supermarkets, hypermarkets, and large shopping malls are mainly located in the North of Italy, while the south continues to lag behind with fewer retail outlets and a still underdeveloped distribution network. Large retailers have started to source products from buying groups who can ensure better deals with suppliers, while some large food retailers have decided to join buying groups to increase their leverage when dealing with suppliers. Although buying groups are largely the precinct of large chain food retailers, independent retailers have started to understand their value. A number of large multinational retailers have either merged or made acquisition agreements with local Italian players, in order to assimilate know-how and avoid fairly strict Italian regulations. Discount retailers are slowing emerging in the Italian market, but have had to modify their market approach by catering to Italian consumer preferences. Hard discounting in the past has proven not to work in Italy but by modifying their image and offering a mix of branded and private label products they seem to have made inroads with the Italian consumer. Private label products have also seen a surge in acceptance by Italian consumers. Each retailer has begun to offer a variety of private label food products, targeting different types of consumers, especially in the organic or typical regional categories. Centrale Italiana?s COOP is presently the most important retailer in Italy. Born as a cooperative between farmers, they have succeeded in incorporating small to medium sized Italian businesses, which have flourished by maintaining their in-depth knowledge and appreciation of Italian and local tastes and needs. The two most important foreign retailers currently present in Italy are Carrefour and Auchan. Auchan has chosen to enter the Italian market with various formats; hypermarkets, supermarkets, department stores, variety stores and hardware stores, while Carrefour?s formats include hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores, with supermarkets being their best performer. The Italian Hotel and Food Service Industry Every year more than 87 million tourists visit Italy, making it the world's fourth most attractive tourist destination. The Italian Hotel and Food Service Industry is a lucrative and growing sector (it is the second largest in the world after the United States); however, it is also diverse and fragmented. It is dominated by many small establishments, bed and breakfast, youth hostels, camping?s, resorts and rural tourism belonging to foreign investors. Italian Hotel Breakdown ? 2008 Stars Number of hotels Number of rooms Number of beds 5 254 22.570 47.202 4 3.950 265.461 546.673 3 17.038 549.108 1.124.629 2 7.718 136.716 256.840 1 4.808 60.855 111.666 Total 33.768 1.034.710 2.087.010 Source: Federalbergi ? Italian Hotel Association Most imported food products enter the Italian market through brokers or specialized traders. Imported products from North America often enter Italy indirectly via the Netherlands' Port of Rotterdam or directly by air. Wholesalers are the main customers for fish and seafood products, as they purchase and distribute to numerous small restaurants and hotels. Most of the processed food and raw material sourcing decisions are made directly by the restaurant chef and/or hotel Food Purchasing Director. Restaurants, hotels and catering companies tend to rely on importers, wholesalers and food manufacturers, while trattorias and pizzerias purchase directly from large retail food outlets. While there are Category Associations for the Hotel and Food Service sectors, each establishment operates independently when it comes to sourcing decisions. Changing Italian lifestyles, with more workers now forced to spend their lunch hours outside of the home due to either longer commuting times or shorter lunch breaks, have given a boost to the food service industry. Italy is slowly moving towards trends and lifestyles seen in other European countries, and it is forecast that an increasing numbers of consumers will eat out during their lunch breaks and possibly also for their evening meals as a result of their jobs, long working hours and business meetings. In the future very few will be able to have a siesta in the afternoon, while most will have to cut down on their lunch break time. Although lunch breaks are likely to become shorter, it is unlikely that most Italians will eat lunch at their desks. Italians still prefer leaving the office for a quick bite. Section IV. Best Prospects for U.S. Agricultural, Fish and Forestry Exports U.S. bulk and intermediate commodities are used as ingredients or inputs for value-added Italian products re-exported. North American high-quality durum wheat, for example, is used to produce pasta. Italy is the world?s fifth largest importer of seafood products, with an annual per capita consumption of almost 25 kilograms of fish and seafood. Last year Italy imported from the United States $78 million in seafood products. Opportunities exist in the supply of fish, especially tuna, salmon, crab, surimi, roe, seafood for the canning industry, frozen fish fillets such as hake, cod and plaice to meet the demand for convenient, ready-to-prepare products, peeled and processed shrimp, squid, cuttlefish, octopus and lobster. Opportunities also exist for fruit berries, condiments, fruit juices, and tree nuts, all sectors that have seen growth in recent years. Leading U.S. Agricultural Exports to Italy (Thousands of U.S. $) Cumulative To Date Values in Thousands of dollars January-December Jan - Jul Jan - Jul 2005 2006 2007 2008 2008 2009 Product Value Value Value Value Value Value % Change Consumer Oriented Agricultural Total 275,524 251,546 279,753 367,721 194,115 154,157 -21 Bulk Agricultural Total 177,780 126,202 245,395 273,590 164,702 59,154 -64 Forest Products Exc Pulp/paper 177,684 195,662 228,543 191,004 124,014 75,414 -39 Intermediate Agricultural Total 113,976 127,187 165,175 189,670 116,772 147,676 26 Tree Nuts 170,384 150,403 134,723 136,909 56,452 44,013 -22 Wheat 118,489 87,223 155,761 102,748 39,119 44,985 15 Processed Fruit & Vegetables 18,119 18,976 31,769 98,205 55,770 53,715 -4 Hardwood Lumber 91,745 112,463 111,314 81,397 52,876 34,300 -35 Soybeans 12,061 5,136 40,218 81,353 59,422 2,041 -97 Fish and Seafood Products, Edible 61,379 66,474 83,469 79,912 41,587 40,841 -2 Crustaceans 53,040 54,112 64,353 66,151 32,760 32,910 Logs & Chips 35,088 38,926 68,820 61,693 40,021 23,758 -41 Wine & Beer 42,309 46,774 49,655 57,138 32,151 28,630 -11 Hides & Skins 60,970 59,418 52,206 56,746 39,408 21,956 -44 Coarse Grains 1,726 2,423 11,485 55,123 45,129 832 -98 Vegetable Oils Exc Soybean Oil 9,029 23,370 58,839 36,353 12,178 56,806 366 Planting Seeds 16,498 11,735 18,100 32,882 16,260 11,733 -28 Panel Products (inc. Plywood) 28,860 30,816 32,728 30,168 20,435 9,949 -51 Other Intermediate Products 15,139 11,303 15,297 26,535 21,984 20,155 -8 Pet Foods (Dog & Cat Food) 13,675 7,496 22,588 23,674 16,076 3,871 -76 Other Consumer Oriented Produc 16,147 17,364 17,392 18,610 10,429 9,583 -8 Cotton 16,527 10,941 23,908 16,488 12,192 3,002 -75 Red Meats,Fresh/Chilled/Frozen 4,328 3,846 10,764 14,729 11,687 5,049 -57 Soybean Meal 0 237 0 13,370 10,851 23,529 117 Essentail Oils 4,072 4,473 8,626 11,657 8,324 4,700 -44 Softwood and Treated Lumber 11,734 10,060 9,377 10,318 6,337 3,105 -51 Pulses 5,782 4,913 8,322 10,139 6,787 4,432 -35 Nursery Products & Cut Flowers 4,877 2,657 5,759 7,850 2,971 2,991 1 Other Value-Added Wood Product 10,257 3,397 6,304 7,429 4,346 4,302 -1 Feeds & Fodders (Exc Pet Food) 5,547 10,023 8,911 6,853 4,849 6,268 29 Molluscs 2,610 3,611 7,534 5,223 3,720 3,598 -3 Salmon 2,631 3,296 6,204 4,982 1,700 2,003 18 Peanuts 887 558 977 4,867 685 1,813 165 Live Animals 2,397 4,126 2,714 4,741 2,547 428 -83 Other Fishery Products 1,550 5,077 5,258 3,330 3,190 2,294 -28 Eggs & Products 2,116 1,199 2,103 2,576 1,849 2,533 37 Dairy Products (Excl. Cheese) 1,036 1,142 1,575 2,557 1,861 458 -75 Red Meats, Prepared/Preserved 176 73 176 1,561 1,515 257 -83 Poultry Meat 141 178 412 1,408 1,356 923 -32 Tea (Incl. Herb Tea) 686 677 19 1,164 508 639 26 Snack Foods (Exclud. Nuts) 1,214 530 837 1,036 860 342 -60 Fruit & Vegetable Juices 295 345 693 782 573 270 -53 Other Bulk Commodities 128 83 11 655 207 101 -51 Sugar/Sweetener/Beverage Bases 281 324 429 503 370 199 -46 Rice 598 1,707 192 475 225 381 69 Cheese 5 117 0 398 295 0 Rubber & Allied Gums 1,147 1,150 908 371 315 74 -77 Groundfist & Flatfish 1,261 147 119 225 217 36 -84 Fresh Vegetables 181 318 241 167 158 324 105 Other Oilseeds 473 1,955 1,449 150 111 161 45 Fresh Fruit 522 129 1,049 71 68 278 309 Breakfast Cereals/Pancake Mix 0 0 17 50 43 921 2,044 Tobacco 18,567 9,181 2,146 48 0 433 Animal Fats 37 98 48 17 0 11 Soybean Oil 5 2,080 5 14 0 79 Raw Beet & Cane Sugars 0 0 0 9 0 0 Raw Coffee 711 255 0 0 0 261 Wheat Flour 0 0 0 0 0 1,812 Surimi 287 231 0 0 0 0 Total 1,612,685 1,534,142 2,004,672 2,203,795 1,282,381 954,484 -26 Key Trade & Demographic Information - Italy 2008 (Thousands of U.S. $) Agricultural, Fish and Forestry Imports from the U.S. Consumer Food Imports from the U.S.: 1,099,916 364,634 Fish and Seafood Imports from the U.S.: Unemployment Rate: 80,020 6.8 percent Italian Population Total Rural Population: 59,619,290 (1 January 2008) 20 Million Foreign Population Total Urban Population: 3,432,651 (1 January 2008) 40 Million Major City Centers: (13) Per Capita Income: $30,400 Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo, Genoa, Bologna, Florence, Catania, Bari, Venice, Messina and Verona Gross Domestic Product: Labor Force $1.821 trillion 25 million Exchange Rate: EURO per U.S. Dollar Average 2008: ?0.6827 = $1.00 Average 2007: ?0 .7345= $1.00 Average 2006: ?0.7964 = $1.00 Source: BICO, ISTAT, Global Trade Atlas, European Central Bank, and CIA Fact Book Section V. Key Contacts USDA FAS Contacts in Rome, Italy Office of Agricultural Affairs, American Embassy, Via Veneto 119a Rome, 00187, Italy Tel: (011) (39) 06 4674 2396 Fax: (011) (39) 06 4788 7008 Website: E-mail: Jim Dever, Agricultural Counselor E-mail: Dana Biasetti, Agricultural Specialist E-mail: Key Italian Government Agencies and Associations Ministero delle Politiche Agricole e Forestali (Ministry of Agriculture) Via XX Settembre 20 00187 Roma Tel: +39-06-46651 Ministero della Sanita? (Ministry of Health) Piazzale Marconi 25, Palazzo Italia, 00144 Eur-Roma Tel: +39-06-5996966 Fax: +39-06-59946217 Ministero delle Economia e delle Finanze (Ministry of Treasury) Agenzia delle Dogane (Customs Agency) Via M. Carucci 71, 00143 Roma Tel. +39-06-50241 Istituto per il Commercio Estero (Italian Trade Commission) Via Liszt 21 00144 Roma (EUR) Tel: +39-06-59921 Fax: +39-06-5422-0066 ANEIOA (National Importers/Exporters Horticultural Association) Via Sabotino 46 00195 Roma Tel: +39-06-3751-5147 Fax: +39-06-372-3569 ANIPO (National Importers/Exporters Horticultural Association) Largo Brindisi 5 00182 Roma Tel: +39-06-7726-401 Fax: +39-06-700-4428 FEDERAGROALIMENTARE (Italian National Food Organization) Via Gigli d'Oro 21 00186 Roma Tel: +39-06-689-341 Fax: +39-06-689-3409 FEDERVINI (Wine Trade Assoc) Via Mentana 2B 00185 Roma Tel: +39-06-4469-421 Fax: +39-06-494-1566 IIAS Istituto Italiano Alimenti Surgelati (Italian Frozen Foods Association) Via Castelfidardo 8 00185 Roma Tel: +39-06-42741472 Fax: +39-06-42011168 UNA (Poultry Union) Via V. Mariano 58 00189 Roma Tel: +39-06-3325-841 Fax: +39-06-3325-2427 UNICEB (Livestock Meat Traders) Viale dei Campioni 13 00144 Roma Tel: +39-06-592-1241 Fax: +39-06-592-1478 UNIPI (Pasta Traders Assoc) Via Po 102, 00198 Roma Tel: +39-06-854-3291 Fax: +39-06-841-5132
Posted: 05 January 2010, last updated 23 February 2011