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Italy: Fresh Produce is Traded Separately

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

In Italy the wholesale trade with fresh products, in particular fruit and vegetables, milk and milk products, cheese and bread, is carried out mainly by specialist traders or the producers themselves. Only the health food wholesaler Ecor has all product groups including frozen foods in his range. Baule Volante (picture) stocks milk products, cheese and chilled soya products. Whereas nearly all the whole food wholesalers operate on a national basis, a large proportion of the fresh produce wholesalers are organised regionally.


Picture: Baule Volante

Organic specialists for green fresh food operate in the wholesale markets in Turin, Bologna, Padua and Rome, for example. Produce is collected from there but is also distributed to the region in response to orders. Examples are El Tamiso (picture) in Padua and MercaBio at the market in Bologna. The two initiatives are linked, with MercaBio taking over the role of planning and marketing, whilst El Tamiso focuses on production. A cooperative of approximately 50 producers supplies the fresh produce. In addition, exotic fruits are imported.


OrganicSur is the main importer of fruit from Latin America for the specialist trade. The company also trades in imported fruit and vegetables (irrespective of season), cane sugar, molasses, palm oil, coffee beans, fruit pulps and fruit concentrates. Trade in bananas, in particular Fair Trade bananas, is developing very dynamically. In 2004, the Italian market required about 9000 t of organic bananas, and roughly 30 % was supplied by OrganicSur. From 2003 to 2004, the demand for Fair Trade bananas in Europe as a whole grew by 58 %. OrganicSur’s managing director Franco De Panfilis is confident this positive trend will continue, because the demand is rising continuously from schools with organic catering. OrganicSur maintains projects and partnerships with farmers in Argentina, Chile and Columbia. The turnover for 2004 was approximately 4 million €. The administration is located in the vicinity of Bologna, and the refrigeration and storage facilities are in Cesena. (


Two large companies supply the needs of retail chains like Coop and Eselunga for fruit and vegetables. The Apopfruit group is the market leader in both the conventional and the organic trade. The subsidiary Ca’Nova sells annually about 20 000 t of fruit and vegetables and other products under the brand name Almaverde. The turnover amounts to about 40 million €. ( The second most important wholesaler of fresh produce is Brio. The company developed out of the organic production cooperative Primavera in 1989 and it has its roots, therefore, in the organic industry. Today, however, Brio S.p.A. earns over 80% of its money from the conventional retail food trade and from exporting. As well as fruit and vegetables, dairy products , cheese and convenience products (e.g. salad mixtures) for large-scale consumers, frozen products  are among the goods Brio supplies. From 2003 to 2004 its turnover rose by 16.7 % to 26.6 million €, and for 2005 Brio is expecting a turnover of 30 million €. (


According to market statistics, 26 % of the total volume of consumption of organic products is accounted for by the market segment dairy products and cheese. The cheese trade is structured on a relatively small scale, whereas organic milk, yoghurt, butter, etc. are supplied by a few of the larger dairies, such as those in Florence and Brescia,  Fattoria Scaldasole (belongs to the Heinz group), and also Granarola (organic line Prima Natura Bio). Cheese making has a long tradition in Italy.  Hundreds of small “caseificie” produce speciality cheeses and market their products directly from where they are produced or find their way to the customer via markets or the specialist trade. However, Egon Giovannini, who works for the cooperative Ca’Verde (near Verona), is seeing a concentration process occurring among the cheese makers: “Many of the little producers are giving up.” Ca’Verde, founded in 1978 and 100 % organic since 1985, has therefore several strings to its bow. Four tonnes of milk from its own farm, with 250 goats and 200 cows, are processed every day, and six more farms also keep it supplied. Half of the speciality products are marketed in the region of Verona, the other half goes to the wholesale trade. In 2004 its turnover reached 1.8 million Euros (


An example of a cheese maker that produces the famous Parmigiano Reggiano is the Caseificio Santa Rita in Serramazzoni near Modena (Emilia Romagna). This cheese maker is one of about eight organic producers of Parmesan cheese. For ten years Santa Rita has been processing the organic milk of eight farms in the region, resulting every year  in approximately 3 700 round cheeses weighing 40 kg each. In Italy producers sell  both via the wholesalers Ecor and Baule Volante and direct to the specialist shops. Santa Rita exports vacuum packed cheese to other European countries, with a large proportion going to the Coop in Switzerland.


Meat and sausage have currently only a very small market share. The chain  Naturasi in Verona has been trying since 1998 to establish a supply in its stores. CarneSi - separate from NaturaSi - set up as an independent firm three years ago. In 2005, the first purely organic butcher was opened under the name CarneSi (Yes to Meat). At the moment, there are three CarneSi (picture) shops of which two are integrated in a NaturaSi organic supermarket in Milan and Padua. According to information provided by the spokesperson of CarneSi, the demand for the organic products has been rising significantly for some time and is even exceeding supply. In addition to supplying  its own  shops, CarneSi’s major function is producing meat, sausage and ham, both fresh and pre-packed.  Most of the meat is bought in from Austria (70 - 80 %), butchered at CarneSi in Vago di Lavagno (near Verona) and further processed. The brand Bio Alleva is kept for the specialist trade and is marketed through Ecor. Products under other brand names are also manufactured for Carrefour, for example, and large-scale consumers like schools. Restaurants are supplied and meat is sold to industry as well. ( In addition, a number of organic farms with animals supply direct to stores in the vicinity or sell to their customers on the farm.


For more than 20 years, Il Mangiarsano has been producing organic confectionary . This firm produces not only a wide variety of biscuits and sweet snacks but also an exclusive line of little tarts and organic jam-filled pastries. The range has two brand names: Germinal is synonymous with wholemeal confectionary for a nutrition-conscious public, and the brand Gaia is sweetened with cane sugar and appeals more to the young consumer. The growing number of vegans is also catered for. “Il Mangiarsano is continually developing new products or is revising  existing lines. For example, as well as the latest products - a filled bar and low salt snacks - we have brought out a complete range of gluten-free products,” says Manuela Smaniotti from Il Mangiarsano. The products are also available under a private label. This firm already produces goods for the most important brands of the specialist retail trade. Its own brands Germinal and Gaia and the private label enable the company to maintain a presence in the conventional retail food trade and in practically every organic store “We are happy with developments in the Italian organic market, and we are seeing also a positive development in the demand generated by school catering” is the view of Manuela Smaniotti. Sales abroad account for about 20% of the total turnover of 6.5 million € (2004). The products are exported as own brand or under trade names to Europe (France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Germany, Austria, Belgium) and also to the USA and Japan. The company’s current project is the  Benessere line - functional food. New products have been created for the growing  groups of consumers with allergies, obese children, the young active wellness generation and also the fitness-conscious older generation.  In Italy these products are marketed by the wholesale trade under the names Celi, Child in Good Form, Sports and Vita+. The brand Benessere is available exports. (


Forno Spiga D’Oro in Piombino Dese (Padova province) is an example of a small organic bakery that supplies several specialist shops in the North East (Treviso, Venetia provinces). The stores Alchebio and Bioalimento in Piombino Dese, La Buona Stagione and Gusto e Salute in Montebelluna, Bra e Bra in Castelfranco, Orto Naturale and Angolo della Natura in Mira are among the clients of Forno Spiga D’Oro. The bakery has three employees and offers a wide range of different fermented and sour dough types of  bread, as well as special bread made from, for example, rye and spelt . The range is rounded off by sweet and spicy pastries. In 2004, the firm’s turnover was about 250 000 €.






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