Retail is doing well, eating out less so but shows resilience: with 2020 being positive overall, Dairy now gets prepared to face the new year armed with convenience, customer focus, health and sustainability.
In 2020, dairy products enjoyed astronomical retail sales across Italy. According to data the international analyst, IRI, processed for TUTTOFOOD, when confined to packaged products sold in retail outlets, Cheeses showed a 12.4% increase, totalling sales of over three billion euro (3.130 billion), while Dairy Products saw an increase of +10.2%, exceeding one and a half billion (1.539 billion). Across Europe, milk and dairy production show attractive increases for the first months of 2020 according to data from the EU Commission, particularly for whole milk powder (+9.5%), skimmed milk powder (+2.6%) and cheese (+2.4%).
A trend not to be taken for granted for products that have been the subject of full-fledged pseudo-health campaigns. And the credit here goes to the producers who have been able to focus on innovation, deducing consumer needs and new consumption habits. "Issues of health and sustainability have firmly occupied consumer's minds, as they are homebound and therefore inclined to pay greater attention — comments Davide Fiori, manager at Luigi Guffanti 1876, the prestigious Italian fromager — With today’s lifestyles, increasingly smaller portions are becoming popular, but with additional high quality. Other fundamental aspects are speed and immediacy in reaching the consumer, and providing a continuous post-sales support service to generate greater loyalty".
The drive to innovate is even stronger for niche companies with premium products operating predominantly within the eating-out sector. Roberta Gritti, Communication Manager for Quattro Portoni, a specialist cheesemonger, shares her point of view: "Buffalo cheeses are a premium product which come from a limited, therefore expensive, raw material. Hence our product is positioned in a market niche and, consequently, is typically targeted at restaurants. Product and service innovation was a roadmap for 2020: it has led us to focus on our online presence as well as enabling our end customers to continue enjoying our cheeses by offering an e-commerce service with home delivery. In B2B, the company’s core business, we always aim to present ourselves with distinctive products, each with a story to tell, setting us apart from other players as much as possible”.
Quality and the value of niches
Even in the Retail channel consumer habits have changed and quality is winning out over price. Marketing Manager for Spinosa, Jessica D. Riggi, explains: "Dairy consumption in the retail sector hasn’t stagnated, but it has changed, and we’re seeing high-quality comfort foods (a sought-after, niche product) added to baskets to perk up day after day spent at home. In our case, for instance, we noted that a boom in homemade pizza during the first lockdown led to an increase in PDO mozzarella di bufala campana sales, a must-have ingredient for any self-respecting Margherita pizza!” At the same time, concern for sustainability is growing: "Concern for health and the environment is a key driver of purchasing decisions for a significant percentage of consumers. But the search for sustainability doesn’t end with the product. It carries on to the company and their social responsibility: For years Spinosa has been a member of the Corporate Golden Donor, a programme founded by the FAI, Italy’s National Trust, to protect the country’s natural beauty, in addition to supporting local environmental associations”.
"Vaccination program progress, which suggests recovery in the second half of 2021, will probably boost consumption, given that closing normal trade stores has decreased sales — concludes Giuliano Anselmi, Trade Marketing Manager of Trevalli Cooperlat — This year brings with it an even greater awareness of health and sustainability issues and, of course, healthy products are of utmost priority for us agri-food companies. In terms of product innovation and service content, a few months ago we launched new plant-based and organic range with our Hoplà brand which includes drinks, cooking cream and béchamel sauce, all suitable for vegan customers too”.