Italy: The Wholesale Trade Operates Nationwide
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In contrast to Germany’s regional wholesale trade, most of the specialist wholesale trade in Italy covers the whole country. The most important distributors, Ecor, Ki-Group, Baule Volante, Finestra sul Cielo, Probios and Fior di Loto supply health food stores, shops selling herbs, restaurants, large-scale consumers and purchasing associations nationwide. The majority of the businesses are located in the north and centre of Italy. And it is here that most of the turnover is generated.
Picture: Ecor lorry
Ecor S.p.A. is the Italian abbreviation for joint stock company) is by far the biggest distributor of whole food in Italy. This wholesaler was created in 1998 as the result of the merging of several wholesalers, and today it stocks some 3 100 articles. 340 articles in all the product groups in the price list appear under its own brand Ecor. Ecor supplies about 800 specialist stores all over Italy. About 260 stores in the Northern provinces account for almost half of the turnover, according to managing director Fabio Brescacin. In 2004 the turnover was 54.9 million Euros. In 2005, Brescacin is anticipating growth of 10 %. The headquarters and the central storage facilities of the company are in San Vendemiano (Treviso province) and more offices are located in Rolo (Reggio Emilia province) and Pomezia near Rome.
Today 220 businesses are linked up to the marketing system B’io that was introduced in 2002. The total turnover of the B’io participants is about 100,000 million Euros, according to Ecor. B’io stores pay 1500 Euros a year for materials, advertising and service. Another 550 stores use some of the materials available. The current B’io campaign stresses the transparency of products, quality and price. Detailed information on all three topics is available for 130 products, and the intention is to convince consumers of the advantages of organic products. The products with ‘transparent prices’ are specially priced for the duration of the campaign and are subject to extra advertising. In 2006, the campaign is to be extended to more products. www.b-io.it
Baule Volante, which has its headquarters in Bologna, is similarly one of the large-scale distributors of whole food in Italy. In 2004, its turnover amounted to about 10 million Euros. Since 1987, the team round the founders Lorenzo Saredo (picture), Elizabeth Kroess and Giorgio Tognetti have been selling a constantly expanding product range that today consists of 1 200 items. Approximately 600 are sold under the Baule Volante own brand. Roughly 30 % of goods are imported, mainly from Germany, Holland and France. 85 % of the range consists of dry goods; 15 % are dairy products, cheese and soya products. This wholesaler does not supply fruit and vegetables, although for a year Baule Volante has been operating in partnership with the wholesaler Di Pisa that supplies this product group. About 60 stores take advantage of this facility and are supplied with both dry goods and fresh produce at the same time. Transport is provided by a carrier with refrigerated lorries that take the goods to the 2,800 clients of Baule Volante in all parts of Italy. About 1,200 of these businesses are specialist whole food stores; then come the “Erboristerias” (shops selling herbs), agri-tourism, purchasing associations and restaurants. “We are represented in 95 % of specialist stores that sell organic products,” says Lorenzo Saredo. On the industrial estate in the Via Mattei in Bologna the company has a warehouse of about 3,000 m². It has a workforce of 35. It also works with some 20 employees in the field who look after the needs of clients.
The enterprise Ki-Group S.p.A., which has its headquarters in Turin, celebrated its thirtieth birthday in 2004. The wholesale business, whose founders were Pietro Bianchi and Angelo Saccone, is the second biggest distributor in Italy after Ecor. Ki can claim to have been the first in 1974 to have marketed organic food nationwide. Its product range consists of about 2,000 items which the company states are 99 % organic: organic food, allergy and dietary products, vegetarian food, macrobiotics and natural cosmetics, washing and cleaning materials. Ki also supplies a large selection of own brand products (about 10 brands) in various product groups. Ki-BuonBio consists of a range of cereals, biscuits, pasta, etc. Ki-La Fornerias is its own brand confectionary and Kivinat is its own brand sugar. Some German whole food manufacturers also belong to the Ki-Group. Among others, the Italian wholesaler sells the products of Allos, Beutelsbacher, Mount Hagen, Martin Evers, Natumi, Rapunzel, Sofine and Ecover.
The name Ki comes from Japanese and means “power of nature’’. In the ranking of distributors in Italy, Maurizio Tomaselli from the Ki-Group places his enterprise in the lead in dry goods. In terms of total turnover - 24 million Euros in 2004 - Ki is in second place after Ecor. The Ki-Group is predicted to end 2005 with a turnover of 25 million Euros. 3 - 4 % could be attributed to the general growth in the organic trade - the overall market is at the moment developing slowly but continuously in a stable fashion. Ki has about 3,000 clients in the specialist trade, including “erboristerias’’, school catering and chemists. Tomaselli reports that supplying the classic retail chains is currently in a test phase.
Fior di Loto was founded as early as 1972 in Grugliasco near Turin. Today the wholesale business is run by the second generation, Roberto Maschio, the son of the founder Ricardo Maschio. There is a stock of approximately 700 products that are sold to 2,500 customers, specialist whole food stores, “erboristerias’’, chemists and purchasing associations. The conventional retail trade is not supplied. According to information provided by the marketing department, 70 % of products are under the firm’s label Fior di Loto and 90 % are organic. The range contains an especially high proportion of gluten-free and sugar-free products. More than 30 representatives work for the wholesaler in the field. Fior di Loto’s turnover in 2004 was 5.5 million Euros and it will probably remain stable in 2005. www.fiordiloto.it
La Finestra sul Cielo (The Window to Heaven) was founded in 1978 by Carlo Guglielmo, Elena Roggero and Adriano Poggio as Centro Est-Ovest/La Finestra sul Cielo in Turin. The orientation of the joint business was natural health, ecology and environment, and spirituality. A macrobiotic restaurant and a small publishing business followed. It was out of these activities that in 1987 La Finesra sul Cielo developed; the wholesaler that today is located in Villareggio in the countryside near Turin. Together with another company - NaturaSi - the wholesaler belongs to a holding company called Idea Team. Natura produces and sells rice waffles to the conventional retail trade. The firm Organic Packaging Europe has also been created and it specialises in putting organic products into their containers and packaging. According to Andriano Poggio, La Finestra sul Cielo supplies about 2,500 stores that stock organic products; it does not supply school catering or purchasing associations. Neither are conventional supermarkets in the list of customers.
The latest price list contains about 780 items 95 % of which appear under the La Fiestra sul Cielo label. The majority are food products (90 % organic). 30 non-food items and about 10 food supplements are also part of the range. Special products for diabetics and allergy sufferers and macrobiotics occupy a prominent place in the programme. In 2004 La Finestra sul Cielo achieved a turnover of 10.62 million Euros and for 2005 a turnover of 11 million is anticipated. Adriano Poggio expects the total organic market in Italy to grow by 5 % in 2005 and by 7 – 8 % in 2006.