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Mike Knowles



Room for luxury in Italy's fruit and veg market

New research due to be presented in Milan suggests most Italian fresh produce consumers want something special

Room for luxury in Italy's fruit and veg market

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Italian consumers do in general, it seems, like to splash out: any affordable luxury, be it a dream weekend away or treating themselves to a fancy meal, is seen by most as something positive. For fresh fruit and vegetable marketers, this could offer new opportunities to secure sales.

That’s one of the key findings of a new report by Agroter, the Italian research agency founded by the University of Bologna’s resident food marketing expert Roberto della Casa.

A total of 63 per cent of the thousands of respondents taking part this year in the agency’s Monitor Ortofrutta project said they regarded such treats as rewards and associated them with things that were exclusive, high-quality and refined.

However, not every generation views the concept of luxury spending in the same way, which has implications for fresh produce marketers, Della Casa noted.

“It’s interesting to analyse the way different age groups view luxury,” he said. “Whereas consumers aged between 18 and 34 years old see luxury as costly and desirable but unreachable, for those aged between 35 and 54 luxury is regarded as gratifying and exclusive: which suggests this age group is important for players in the luxury market.”

He added: “For the over-55s, luxury is something excessive and superfluous, diminishing the enjoyment of what you buy. More generally, however, there’s a growing positive perception of luxury and this is boosting potential profits.”

Thousand-euro question

Those taking part in the survey were asked how they would spend an imaginary thousand euros.

The majority – 39 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men – said they would buy a special weekend away. Other options divided the sexes: 18 per cent of women opted for some kind of pampering, compared with 11 per cent of men, while 23 per cent of men said they would buy some new technology, against just 10 per cent of women.

“The Italians prefer instant gratification, like a trip,” Della Casa observed.

When it came to food, meanwhile, the report found differences in how luxury was perceived between animal and vegetable products, although top of the list ahead of various luxury meat and seafood products was an item of fresh produce.

“At the start of October, the most popular product was porcini mushrooms, which drew 17 per cent of the votes and was preferred more by men than women,” Della Casa explained.

Produce potential

As for fresh fruit and vegetables, several items were perceived as luxurious, but those that also followed recent trends like healthy eating could offer excellent potential for sales growth.

“Our research also showed that a high percentage of people saw berries and exotic fruit as enjoyable essentials in [Italy’s] gastronomic culture, like salami,” Della Casa concluded, “

These and other findings in the annual report will be presented tomorrow (30 November) as part of grocery magazine Mark Up’s annual Fruit & Veg Special event, which is being held at the Manzoni Theatre in Milan.

Among the guests at this year’s meeting are Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti, Mario Gasbarrino of supermarket chain Unes-U2, wine expert Mattia Vezzola of Bellavista Franciacorta and nutritionist Elena Dogliotti  of the Fondazione Umberto Veronesi.

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