More than 500 people attended the Frutta&Verdura event, which was held at Il Sole 24 Ore's Collina room in Milan

How to market Italian fresh produce and guarantee the success it deserves both at home and abroad? These were the questions addressed at the recent Frutta&Verdura presentation workshop in Milan, organised by Italian grocery title Mark Up and Fruitnet partner Italiafruit News.

Entitled ‘In & Out, how to sell fresh produce made in Italy’, the meeting attracted more than 500 participants from all along the supply chain to hear expert presentations not only from the fresh fruit and vegetable industry but also from other sectors including wine, all to further understanding of how best to address challenges relating to the market and globalisation.

The day-long event was also an opportunity for Italiafruit publisher Agroter to present its tenth annual Monitor Ortofrutta, a periodical analysis outlining the evolution of purchasing behaviour for fresh produce among Italian families. This year’s report extended to 216 pages of in-depth information, including 90 case studies about adding value to Italian fruit and vegetables as well as analysis of opportunities and threats in 15 key markets – among them potential and current destination markets.

There were plenty of take-home messages: the sector must avoid introspection by explaining the many advantages and benefits – still unknown to many – of Italian fresh produce, in order to eliminate the scepticism expressed by most consumers about the products’ true origins; also, weak and disjointed sales promotions should be replaced with the kind of typical Italian structure that everyone admires. Combining, enhancing, using appropriate technologies. Aiming for quality, terroir, quality, health, marketing. Everything to export not just products but regions, to conquer markets and at the same time to promote all things Italian.

Following a note of welcome from Mark Up director Cristina Lazzati, delegates heard from Chiara Daltri and Roberto Della Casa – respectively marketing manager and managing director of Agroter and Italiafruit News – who supported the view that Italians are unique in the eyes of the world, but generally don’t realise it. “For better or worse, they are so very different that ‘Italian’ is the most meaningful of adjectives to describe origin,” said Della Casa. “More faith is placed in Italian products compared with foreign ones, but we don’t exploit this advantage, which requires greater awareness going from Made in Italy to the Italian way of life, from simple promotions themselves to being able to offer and sell themselves.”

The event then came alive with a round table discussion featuring leading operators in production and technology: Alessandro Dalpiaz of apple industry body Assomela; Fabio Zoboli, commercial director of packaging group Infia; Ambrogio De Ponti, president of trade association Unaproa; and Angelo Benedetti, president of sorting and grading specialist Unitec. They focused on the need to target better quality, service, safety, organisation and specialisation, enhancing products with suitable packaging so that fruit and vegetables are recognised, and appeal to, consumers. This, they said, meant using technologies that would assure constant quality in line with consumer expectations the world over.

After a session featuring lively and stimulating contributions from Unes chief executive Mario Gasbarrino and Coop president Marco Pedroni, who spoke of their plans as leading retailers to invest more and more in fresh produce, the focus then moved to two excellent case studies from outside the industry: one from Marcello Lunelli, vice-president of wine marketer Cantine Ferrari, and one from Stefano Agostini, president and managing director of beverage giant Gruppo San Pellegrino, who underlined the importance of their brands in terms of achieving success on the international stage.