Italian Food Producers Disagree Over 'Made in Italy' Plan

The initiative, which aimed to distinguish genuine Italian products from fake goods and snatch back billions of Euros in lost sales from goods masquerading as Italian products, has caused bitter division among food producers.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Jun. 13, 2017 10:09 UTC

The Italian Government’s Made in Italy” cam­paign is under threat of being scrapped. Far from being a recipe for suc­cess, the ini­tia­tive, which aimed to dis­tin­guish gen­uine Italian prod­ucts from fake goods and snatch back bil­lions of Euros in lost sales from goods mas­querad­ing as Italian prod­ucts, has caused bit­ter divi­sion among food pro­duc­ers.

If we open the door to prod­ucts with for­eign ingre­di­ents, we are not talk­ing of real Made in Italy. This is not the kind of help we are look­ing for.- Riccardo Deserti, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheeses

A heated debate arose over what Made in Italy” actu­ally meant. Hardliners insisted that no for­eign ingre­di­ents should be allowed, while other pro­duc­ers argued that was too strin­gent. The fail­ure to agree on cri­te­ria has put the ini­tia­tive at risk, accord­ing to anony­mous sources from the indus­try min­istry.

One of these sources told Reuters, For now there is no final deci­sion on whether to go ahead with the Made in Italy sign — we are study­ing it, we are doing tech­ni­cal checks.” The unnamed source added, We will launch it only if it fully meets the requests of pro­duc­ers.”

The Made in Italy” cam­paign was intro­duced in 2016 to cer­tify gen­uine Italian food prod­ucts. A star-shaped logo framed by olive and oak branches would fea­ture on qual­i­fy­ing goods, mak­ing it eas­ier for shop­pers to iden­tify authen­tic Italian prod­ucts from Italian-look­ing prod­ucts.

The ini­tia­tive aimed to claw back an esti­mated $65 bil­lion a year in sales lost to mas­querad­ing prod­ucts and help small Italian busi­nesses. It would have added up to five per­cent to the enter­prise value of small to medium-sized food com­pa­nies, accord­ing to an inter­na­tional mar­ket­ing firm, Brand Finance.

Massimo Pizzo, Italy’s man­ag­ing direc­tor at Brand Finance told Reuters, Domestic com­pa­nies would surely gain from such a logo given that Italy has a high rep­u­ta­tion in the food sec­tor and many of them are not well known out­side the coun­try.”

A con­sor­tium of pro­duc­ers of Parmigiano Reggiano Italian cheeses was among the hard­lin­ers insist­ing on rigid rules. Riccardo Deserti, chair­man of the con­sor­tium told Reuters, If we open the door to prod­ucts with for­eign ingre­di­ents, we are not talk­ing of real Made in Italy. This is not the kind of help we are look­ing for.”

The con­sor­tium of Prosecco wine pro­duc­ers took a sim­i­lar stance, reject­ing the idea of prod­ucts made with for­eign mate­ri­als being branded as Italian.

Other com­pa­nies includ­ing pasta maker Barilla, felt that tra­di­tional Italian pro­duc­tion should qual­ify pro­duc­ers for the right to use the logo. 16 of Barilla’s 30 pro­duc­tion units are abroad; the com­pany has fac­to­ries in the US and Russia.

Paolo Barilla, vice chair­man of Barilla told a food con­fer­ence in March, We are Italian, we pay taxes in Italy and we run our for­eign plants fol­low­ing the rules of the Italian qual­ity.”

Oscar Farinetti, founder of high-end Italian food chain Eataly told Reuters, I totally agree with the idea of a Made in Italy sign.” Farinetti wouldn’t be drawn on which side of the fence he stood, but at the recently opened Eataly out­let in Moscow, some of its cheeses includ­ing moz­zarella and bur­rata had to be made from local ingre­di­ents due to the embargo on some European food imports.

Various con­sor­tiums in Italy already have strict mar­ket­ing reg­u­la­tions in place on their prod­ucts. Prosecco wine must come from spe­cific regions of north­ern Italy, and be made exclu­sively from glera grapes. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese) can only be pro­duced from a pre­cise recipe and made within a set area around the town of Parma.

There are com­pa­nies located in other coun­tries, but with Italian roots, who feel enti­tled to pro­mote their prod­ucts as Italian. One such com­pany is Fonterra, a New Zealand dairy com­pany whose Perfect Italiano range includes Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese. The com­pany uses Italian names and fea­tures the Italian flag because it was launched by Natale Italiano, an Italian who migrated to Australia in the 1920s.

A Fonterra spokesman told Reuters, While the brand is proud of its her­itage, its pack­ag­ing is evolv­ing away from fea­tur­ing the Italian flag,”

A fur­ther wrench in the works was EU stan­dards relat­ing to coun­try-of-ori­gin label­ing. For exam­ple, under EU rules sausages pro­duced in Italy from imported meat would qual­ify for the label, while ham made in a for­eign plant of an Italian pro­ducer would not.


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