After attending the 20th annual SANA healthy living conference in Bologna, Italy, it is clear that my insatiable desire to eat world-famous Italian foods is matched by the country’s desire to bring them to me. The show featured exhibitors from across Italy who were eager to strengthen the Italian export market with their natural, organic and healthy food offerings. More than 100 international buyers were brought in by the Italian Trade Commission, along with FederBio—the country’s organic unitary body—to get a taste of the dynamic and emerging healthy foods market in Italy. I was able to meet with more than 15 companies and came away feeling that the market is largely untapped by U.S. importers and distributors, which means plenty of opportunities exist for successful partnerships. As one well-known U.S. natural retailer told me of her meetings with Italian producers, the companies she spoke with largely have great products that can compete in the U.S. food market but lack the appropriate partners in the United States to manage distribution and marketing effectively.
Many parallels exist between the U.S. healthy foods market and the comparable Italian market—it, too, is growing at a healthy rate, though it has also been slowed by the global economic recession. Double-digit organic food sales growth in 2008 has been replaced by expansion of 7% to 9% through the first six months of 2009, according to Robert Pinton of Green Planet, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable business globally. Still, organic food sales in Italy are outpacing conventional food sales and make up about 3% of the overall Italian food market. In the U.S. market, organic foods and beverages also constitute about 3% of the overall food market, according to NBJ estimates.
I plan on detailing my visit more extensively in the coming weeks and talking more specifically about some of the trends I encountered, such as an emerging yeast-free category that seemed to come up often. Nutrition Business Journal will also publish a Global Nutrition Industry market analysis issue in December that will quantify the healthy foods markets in Europe so that subscribers can more easily identify specific areas of opportunity. In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me an e-mail with questions you may have about the European markets so that we can tailor our issue to suit your company’s needs.
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