Italy: Big Growth Potential in School Meals and Restaurants
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It has taken five years for the breakthrough to happen: in 2004, 920,000 organic meals daily were produced in schools, which was an increase of 15 % compared with the year before. Also, the number of restaurants offering organic food is growing. According to surveys (Sana Trade Fair) there are more than 400 organic restaurants in Italy. Bio-Bank, that publishes an annual register of the industry Tutto Bio, listed the addresses of 250 restaurants that use at least 70 % of organic ingredients.
Picture: Campaign for organic school catering
Added to these are about 700 suppliers of organic catering on organic farms with agri-tourism. The potential turnover with organic products in the catering sector is given as approximately 700 million Euros. As early as 1999/2000, the national government passed a law prescribing the use of organic ingredients in the catering kitchens of schools and hospitals. At the beginning, however, few local governments were willing to give subsidies and, since infringements of the law were not pursued, it took several years for the regulations to be implemented. Some regions are, however, in the forefront regarding school catering and have implemented the national law or even supplemented it with their own regulations. The provinces Friaul, Venetia, Tuscany and Marche started organic school catering in 2000 and 2002. At the end of 2002 Emilia Romagna laid down that kindergartens and children up to ten years old should be provided solely with organic meals.
If cooperation with the regional government works properly, school catering can become the driving force for the development of a region with regard to the organic sector. The law on school catering has had a positive effect in Emilia Romagne province. The amounts used by large-scale kitchens can be calculated and they remain relatively stable, which is an important factor for the farmers, the processors and the wholesale trade. The knock-on advertising effect for organic products in the parental home and the health effect on children and young people should not be underestimated. In total, approximately 600 school kitchens all over Italy use organic food, of which 570 are in northern and central Italy. It can be calculated that with 920,000 meals being served, just 100 g of fruit per child each day means a daily requirement for fruit of 92 t.
This positive development was made possible by the work of two initiatives: first, Prober, an association of organic producers and processors in Emilia Romagne that investigated in a study the opportunities for using organic products in non-domestic catering and set up a round table discussion with the most important catering firms. Second, the Consortium Bio, an association of 50 important firms from the conventional trade with some organic input that carried out several advertising campaigns for organic food in schools. Over 8 000 Italian mayors were approached and 1.65 million postcards were despatched with the slogan “Hurrah for organic meals at school”. The campaign was backed up by advertisements in daily papers and magazines.
250 Restaurants with over 70 % organic food
Bologna, the provincial capital of Emilia Romagna, has eight organic restaurants. Between 70 % and 100 % of ingredients are organic. An example is the restaurant NaturaSi Cucina Biologica (pictures) that was established in 2001 and is linked to one of the three branches of NaturaSi in Bologna. It is managed by Marco Grotti and his partner Nadia Boraggini. They run the restaurant independently as franchisees of NaturaSi, which has no financial involvement. NaturaSi Cucina Biologica can seat 70 inside (with a gallery) and has 45 covered places outside.
As the franchiser, NaturaSi provides the space and the equipment: everything from the place setting to plates and serviettes bears the name NaturaSi Cucina Biologica. The ingredients for the extensive menu are 100 % organic. Three employees in the kitchen and a “pizzairolo” (picture) at the wood-burning stove prepare the dishes. Service is provided by Marco Grotti and Nadia Boraggini.
The two proprietors are satisfied with 80 guests a day on average. They are open four hours at midday and four hours in the evening. Marco Grotti explains that many of the guests come from the offices and banks in the east of Bologna, and they have a high proportion of regular clientele. “Our customers appreciate our vegetarian specialities and our traditional cuisine, our seasonal cuisine and our fresh produce. It goes without saying that we take account of any food allergies and the special wishes of our customers.”
Prices are within the normal range.
An advertisement on local television did a great deal to get the restaurant known. The location on the Via Po is not particularly attractive. In the residential area there are few eating places, and in this part of the Via Po there are hardly any shops. The restaurant guests have to make a point of going there to eat. There is hardly any passing trade. So the link with the NaturaSi supermarket with its car park is a real benefit. However, the clientele is not necessarily the same. Grotti and Boraggini have themselves built up a regular clientele who visit their restaurant.
To date there is only one other NaturaSi restaurant, which is in Verona.