By: Doug Baker, Vice President Industry Relations-Private Brands, Technology, Food Marketing Institute
Italian Pavilion at FMI Connect

It seems that everywhere you go Italian food is as common as a good old American hot dog. In fact, you could argue that American consumers have a romance with Italian food products given both their affordability and accessibility. The challenge that both the Italian government and Italian Trade Agency have taken on is introducing to consumers what they call “authentic” Italian products—those made on Italian soil with Italian companies and Italian recipes.

I recently traveled to Italy for the country’s largest food trade shows, Cibus 2016. It was evident that this event had the full support of the country, its government and the industry it supports. Ministers of Italy shared their perspectives on the European Union, Italy’s commitment to driving a safe and healthy food culture, and strategies for sharing the Italian food culture worldwide. I, along with Google and Alibaba, spoke to this same audience and many of the ministers on how Italian products are perceived around the world and how to best engage consumers and countries that still have yet to experience the Italian culture.

For a U.S. company, working with the Italian government and Italian Trade Agency to provide authentic Italian products to American shoppers is a win-win opportunity. The partnership advantage lies in securing relationships with groups that have done much of the vetting and validating for you. This allows U.S. companies to work directly with the Italian manufacturers to source products for a developed private brand or creating a new brand that will communicate the benefits Italian manufacturers promote.  

While walking the show floor, I saw every cut of pasta you could imagine, Gelato stands at nearly every corner of every aisle, and some of the most interesting ways of displaying and selling fungi. If you have a sweet tooth, you were best to stick with Gelato, chocolates, or the many pastry treats being sampled throughout the show floor. And to go with the pastries were some of the most delicious spreads and jams.

Cibus 2016 was definitely a sight to see, but as I left to return to the states, I was comforted to know that this would not be my last taste of Italy because the Italian Trade Agency will return to FMI Connect this month with a larger exhibit space filled with even more wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and food delights. 

As U.S. consumers continue to demand more customization, transparency and experiential-type foods, I think we’ll also continue to see new flavors and products from far away countries assume private brand labels in order to better meet those consumer demands and transport our shoppers around the world. What better way to get started than by joining me at FMI Connect to experience the latest offerings from Italy and around the globe including China, Greece, Mexico, Thailand, Quebec and more? See you there, ciao!