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Food industry: opportunities and challenges

Food industry: trends are positive for this sector, which accounts for nearly 12 percent of the national GDP and goes hand in hand with Automation. But defending Italian-made products and supporting competitiveness remain essential.

Food, Automation, Clothing, Furniture. These are the “4 A’s” of Made in Italy: the excellences of Italian industry thanks to which our country is appreciated all over the world and which constitute the strengths of the Bel Paese.

Each of these sectors plays its part in the Italian economic system, but Food is exemplary, as the 2016 turnover of this sector alone accounted for as much as 11.6 percent of the national GDP, data from the Italian Federation of the Food Industry.

The trend continues to grow this year: the production of the food industry sector in July marks a +6.9 percent compared to the same month last year and even surpassed the total industry placing itself well above the +4.4 percent of the large industrial aggregate in the July 2016 to July 2017 comparison. Still, exports grew by 7 percent in the first half of this year.

To understand Italy’s prominent role in this sector, it was enough to take a few steps among the stands at Anuga 2017, the food&beverage event held recently in Cologne. Italy was among the countries with the greatest growth in exhibitors from previous years and by far the most represented country, thanks to 950 companies in attendance, more than Germany, which stopped at 716.

All of these companies also create a positive spin-off in other related areas since, alongside the activities directly related to the industry, a wide circle of indirect internal and external players emerge. Think, for example, of those who supply water and electricity, or those who manufacture the automatic machines necessary for packaging and processing products and raw materials, or, again, those who produce electrical panels intended for these systems. One could almost say, going back to our “4 A’s,” that Automation and Food go hand in hand: this sector, as we saw in our June blog article, also has positive numbers (including the 4.7 percent average increase in sales).

In this context, we need to become aware of the challenges that remain, despite the positive trends. The defense of Made in Italy, is among the most strategic activities underway because it has been estimated that the turnover of counterfeit products creates an estimated damage to Italy of 60 billion.

It is in this direction that Federalimentare is heading. Just at Anuga, Cibus, the International Food Fair organized by Federalimentare and Fiere di Parma, presented the first listening desk against Italian Sounding.. This is a form of misleading communication to the consumer that attributes Italian origin to a product that in fact is not. Unfortunately, this is a widespread practice abroad that needs to be opposed.

“The desk is the ideal and legal continuation of Cibus’s path that has always supported and protected Authentic Italian,” noted Antonio Cellie, Ceo of Fiere di Parma. “It is also a step toward defining and measuring Italian Sounding, which will be the subject of a specific observatory on which we are working with Federalimentare, ICE and Mipaaf to measure and counter the phenomenon in an increasingly timely and effective way in different markets.

The legal route, argues Federalimentare President Luigi Scordamaglia, is one of the most important methods to be used to counter Italian Sounding along with perfecting distribution platforms and continuous supervision in terms of communication. In addition, interventions to increase the competitiveness of Italian companies will be indispensable in the future.

“While much has been accomplished, let it not be ignored, however. there still remains work to be done on domestic consumption (with a food social gap between those who have the means and those who do not still too wide)-the president adds-and especially in terms of interventions on the competitive environment in which Italian companies in the sector operate (bureaucracy and labor costs). Only in this way could we say that we have taken advantage of all the opportunities that are arising in the market and brought home structural results.”