The meat sector, and charcuterie in particular, is one of the international banners of excellence Made in Italy.
The meat sector, and charcuterie in particular, is one of the international banners of excellence Made in Italy. In 2019, according to ISTAT figures processed by the trade association ASSICA, charcuterie exports remained substantially stable in terms of volume (181,142 tonnes, -0.3%) while value witnessed an increase of 1.4% to 1,568 million euro. Despite the difficulties highlighted by global trade, the international balance recorded +0.9% at 1,354 million euro. The situation looked good for salami (+4.4% in value at 336.6 million euro), mortadella and frankfurters (+7.0% in value at 149.3 million euro) and seasoned bacon, which rose in value to two figures (+20.2% at around 51.2 million euro). Shipments of cooked hams also rose again in value, to 139.6 million euro (+2.6%).
What can we expect in 2020 in light of the Covid emergency? “The events we experienced in 2019, and perhaps even more so those we are experiencing today, require us to think in terms of mutual support between peoples in a situation of epochal difficulty” - says Nicola Levoni, Chairman of ASSICA - “We are convinced that facilitating exchanges is an important lever to get through this difficult time and protect the entire supply chain”.
We are talking about a fundamental sector for our country's economy. More than 900 industrial companies with almost 30 thousand employees, which invoice about 8 billion euro in the charcuterie sector alone, including more than 1.5 billion euro generated by exports of the finest Italian charcuterie. A sector that is trying to support the country's needs during an emergency, thanks to all the employees who have continued making essential foods that are part of our traditions. “At national level” - adds Levoni - “... we need to implement campaigns to promote and support in-store consumption, particularly at the delicatessen counter, to keep demand alive”.
Ready-sliced and home-made products
The delicatessen counter, as many manufacturers agree, is the sales method that has been most severely affected by this exceptional situation in which consumers turn mainly to ready-sliced products because they are quicker and to avoid contact with people. “We are ensuring the continuation of our production, but focusing mainly on the health of the staff employed in the chain” - adds Emore Magni, director of Consorzio Prosciutto Toscano PDO. Consumers have changed their buying habits, leaning more and more towards quick purchases, so they prefer ready-sliced products. This has led to an increase in the demand for trays of Prosciutto Toscano PDO, but this only partly offsets losses resulting from the closure of the Ho.Re.Ca sector and the significant drop in sales at the delicatessen counter of the main distribution chains. We hope that this trend will change as shops gradually reopen”.
Another aspect that has had a significant impact is the almost complete closure of the out-of-home consumption. As Alessandro Iacomoni, Chairman of the Consorzio di Tutela della Finocchiona IGP, explains: “Finocchiona PGI closed a positive 2019 at +3%, and the first two months of 2020 also recorded positive data. The lockdown has been featured mainly by the closure of the Ho.Re.Ca. sector, which is extremely important for a production like ours. Our production volumes have dropped by about 12% since the beginning of the year. We are focusing on social media, new sales channels and new markets to relaunch the product. Inspiring consumers by offering them news, curiosities or recipes and ways to use the product in the kitchen is also going to be important. Our Consortium has been working with professional chefs for some time to create a range of recipes: appetisers, salads, pasta dishes, main courses and, last but not least, gourmet sandwiches”.
For meat too, the closure of diners and restaurants has forced consumers to concentrate on home-made food. “With people having more time to dedicate to the home and the kitchen, as confirmed by the media, there has been a return to home-made food” - explains Raffaele Pilotto, sales and marketing director and partner of Centro Carni Company. So people are buying ingredients and putting them together in the kitchen. This trend also concerns burgers and joints of meat for barbecues or grills. We believe that this emergency will lead to a greater focus on safe, certified foods that reflect people's values and lifestyles. There will probably also be a need to return to conviviality”.
A sustainable and technological future
However, the particularities highlighted by the emergency may also be an opportunity to better understand which trends are likely to be consolidated in the foreseeable future. “There is a lack of demand for food service and, at retailer level, delicatessen counter sales have dropped dramatically. Consumers are preferring ready-sliced charcuterie, which they can grab directly from the shelf without stopping at the counter. The growth of sliced charcuterie sales in the retail channel does not, however, offset the losses in turnover recorded in the other channels” - says Daniele Cremonesi, Director of San Michele. “This said, I think that attention to basic issues that have emerged in recent years, such as animal welfare, reduction of plastics, environmentally friendly packaging and sustainable production, could be stepped up as a result of this emergency. These issues are at the heart of our industrial and commercial plans for 2020/2025, which are under review right now”.
“We see the acceleration of e-commerce as being well established, also in the large-scale retail sector” - says Valeria Fiorani, Fiorani & C. Marketing and External Relations Office. “In line with this evolution, we intend to continue offering products with high service value and quality, that are quick and easy to cook, designed to last longer. We also see great development possibilities for cooked products, with recipes suitable for new lifestyles, and attractive packaging. The emergency will accelerate greener trends: consumers will want to be increasingly informed and aware and will move towards products that are healthy for the body and the environment, offering greater guarantees of safety”.
Exports are confirmed as an important outlet in addition to e-commerce. In 2109, for example, Mortadella Bologna witnessed a 20% increase in sales abroad, confirming the EU as the main reference market. Corradino Marconi, Chairman of Consorzio Mortadella Bologna, declares: “We are proud of the growth of Mortadella Bologna in foreign markets, which confirms the growing appreciation of quality Made in Italy and rewards our commitment to pursue specific promotional programmes abroad, especially in Germany and Belgium for the EU market and Japan and Hong Kong for the non-EU market”.
Assuming that the lockdown with have an effect at least on the first half of the year, 2020 is going to be a difficult year, but the efforts made by producers in different directions suggest that consolidation, and possibly even recovery, is within the sector's reach.