(This article was originally published on Eurofruit Magazine, in January 2013)
Italians love brands.
Here, private labels have one of the lowest penetration in Europe, and many food companies have built empires based on their brands.
Think of Ferrero’ s Nutella or Barilla pasta.
Besides, trade is still very fragmented in Italy, with top 3 retailers having a share of about 30% of the food market, compared to 60% in UK or Germany.
And if we look at produce, 50% of the market is still in the hands of small traditional fruit & veg shops .
In other words, the ideal scenario to build strong and profitable brands.
With this background, one might be surprised when shopping produce in a Coop or Conad store down here.
The reality is that also in Italy produce is a largely unbranded category.
Hey, wait a minute: most fruit & veg have some kind of labels on, but we all know in most cases a label is not a brand.
A label exists on a piece of fruit or vegetable, a brand exists in consumers’ minds.
And if we look into Italian consumers’ minds (via market research, obviously..) we find very few brands down here.
(ehi, let’s make a pause here: if you are interested in this article, why not subscribing to our Pisani Food Marketing free newsletter? you wil not miss any new article and also get the free e-book “Introduction to fresh produce marketing”)
Chiquita dominates the banana category, with no challengers at all.
Melinda is number 1 in apples, with other brands like Marlene and Pink Lady that have been able to build some good equity.
And that’s more or less it – if we look at big numbers.
Some others are trying.
Simba launched a big campaign in 2012 to support their new brand Fratelli Orsero – but the feeling is they still have a long way to go (and some improvements in their marketing communication & program) if they want to get into people’ minds.
Zespri is periodically on air with their kiwi but still the brand remains not very familiar with Italians.
Rosaria (oranges & freshly squeezed orange juices from Sicily) has started a few years ago communicating their brand with TV ads & other media.
Sant’Orsola is doing a good job with their berries.
Valfrutta is also promoting their new fresh fruit business with several initiatives, and can enjoy starting from a quite high brand awareness from the preserved food business (seeing if the brand will work on fresh products too will be an interesting case from a marketing perspective).
And what about the tons of Italian fruit producers?
What a missed o
Lack of marketing expertise, focus on production and sales, short term vision, wrong assumption that you need millions to launch a brand – all these factors contribute to this apparent lack of initiative and of successfull fresh produce brands in Italy.
Sure, we’re starting to see some signals of improvement , but there is still so much to do, and so many market opportunities to exploit.
In the end, Italians love brands in all categories – not making the most of it in produce too looks like a missed call.