How to champion authentic Italian products

17 November 2021, 07:15 AM
  • With the risk of food fraud on the rise, independent retailers can help educate consumers on the joy of genuine Italian food and drink
How to champion authentic Italian products

Brits’ love for all things Italian is well-known among speciality retailers. If anything, during these strange pandemic months, that love for familiar and warming dishes like pizza and pasta has grown, with sales of products such as pizza ovens and tinned tomatoes soaring. But recent data provides a stark warning about the rise of counterfeit products. Pre-Brexit, Britain was the fourth-largest importer of Italian food, according to The Takeout, but by September 2021, Italy’s pasta exports to the UK have fallen by 28%, extra virgin olive oil by 13% and tomato products by 16%.

A statement from Italy’s agriculture lobby group, Coldiretti, warned that manufacturers are using deceptive packaging to trick customers into believing they’re buying genuine Italian products. “The British need to watch out for Italian oil and Parmesan with an Italian flag on the label, which actually comes from America,” warned chief economist Lorenzo Bazza.

‘Italian-sounding’ products have long been an issue in the UK market, but if this is on the rise, there’s all the more reason for fine food retailers to step in with quality, authentic products. Retailers have the opportunity to educate customers about genuine protected product labels and certifications, such as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Italy has a whopping 42 PDO and six Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) olive oils, proving there is plenty of quality to be found for those ready to look for it.

Meanwhile, the UK has introduced its own Geographical Indication (GI) schemes post-Brexit to ensure popular and traditional products made in the UK can obtain special status to prove their authenticity. The first of these, Gower Salt Marsh Lamb, was introduced in August. The passion for provenance is growing, with more consumers wanting to know exactly where the food and drink they purchase comes from.

Throughout Covid, shoppers have also become aware of the tough conditions for food makers, and the drive to support local producers is increasing. With the intent clearly there, all retailers need to do is help consumers connect the dots by showcasing the very best authentic and small-batch products on the market today.

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