Italian large-scale retail offers a sweet thrill

Fiera Milano, Rho


Italian large-scale retail offers a sweet thrill

To satisfy a need for gratification, and with the closure of bakeries and gelato parlours, Italians (re)discovered gelato and frozen pastry in supermarkets during the lockdown. And the trend continued afterwards.

The numbers speaks for themselves. According to IRI analysis regarding food sales across large-scale retail chains, from January to July 2020 supermarket gelato recorded a 4.3% increase in sales, easily exceeding half a billion Euro (558 million). It should be noted that the increase in average price during the same period equates to 2.6%, growth therefore also seen in terms of volume.


But is this solely due to the lockdown? Not exactly. According to data recorded by Nielsen as of 24 May, from the start of Phase 2, gelato sales across large-scale retail chains increased by a spectacular 53% with respect to the lockdown period, also thanks to the arrival of sunny weather and very high temperatures.


Companies respond with quality, sustainability and wholesomeness

Players in the sector are almost unanimous in outlining their reasons for this success: consumers are not only looking for gratification, but also increasingly high-quality products as well as a high service content while also paying attention to new needs, such as the wholesomeness, as well as product aesthetics.


During the lockdown, the need for something sweet, combined with the closure of bakeries and gelato parlours, resulted in a clear increase in the sale of supermarket pastry and gelato products", explains Orlando Bottone, owner of Dolce Idea. "An increase characterised also by a healthy approach, to which the sector has responded with yet another step up in terms of quality. The e-commerce boom was also confirmed and we have found ourselves helping clients who are new to on-line shopping with their transactions. As for the future, we continue to focus on the Made in Italy, looking to markets such as Europe, starting with Germany, and the USA”.


Sarah Marengo, Marketing Officer at Dolceria Alba agrees: “Families have sought out alternative gratification, looking increasingly to frozen desserts. The quality of our products has allowed us to gain loyal customers, who now continue to reward our sales. And while in the past, customers were only looking for a product that was ‘good', they now want it to be ‘beautiful’ and ‘healthy’ too. This is a need we’ve seen for a while, also on international markets, starting with the USA. We are constantly moving to satisfy new needs relating to sustainable packaging, clean labelling and natural, organic product lines”.


“During the lockdown we witnessed significant growth in the consumption of gelato at home – confirms Angela Neglia, Sales Director at Callipo Gelateria while the reopening and holidays have seen out-of-home consumption pick up again. This will probably return to its previous levels. There is also a focus on recyclable packs and functional aspects, such as lactose-free products. Our attention now turns to single portions as part of a multi-pack and reduced weight products. Internationalisation also remains a priority, At the start of the year, we launched a Vegan Gelato line, which is proving successful in Northern Europe and Germany. Asia also plays an important role in the growth process”.


In conclusion, an interesting note regarding the specific packaged ice segment comes from Federico Servadio, Sales Director at Ghiaccio Facile, who also offers a view on the out-of-home market: “During the lockdown consumption was on a downward turn, as the consumer was focused on buying essential goods. But that downturn was only temporary and with the reopening of bars and the desire to socialise again, the trend has totally turned around. As for sustainability and healthy eating, the sector has already responded with sustainable packaging in 100% recyclable plastic and with strict hygiene and health controls”.