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Focus on Italian cuisine to enliven supermarkets

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Several U.S. grocery chains will receive an infusion of excitement in October when an initiative designed to raise consumer awareness and knowledge about food and beverages made in Italy hits their stores.

Several U.S. grocery chains will receive an infusion of excitement in October when an initiative designed to raise consumer awareness and knowledge about food and beverages made in Italy hits their stores.

Sponsored by the Italian Trade Agency, a government organization that works to promote that nation’s businesses internationally, the program was unveiled in June at FMI Connect, where, under the auspices of ITA, more than 50 suppliers comprised the most impressive pavilion on the show floor.

At that point, three notable supermarket operators — H-E-B, Mariano’s and Price Chopper — had signed on to promote the authentic Italian products that are an integral part of one of the world’s great cuisines for a two- or three-week period in October. Since then, Kroger has become a major partner, and work is under way with Wakefern and Schnucks, where products from southern Italy will be featured in the first quarter of 2016.

From the Italian government’s perspective, the campaign is intended to increase exports of such products as wine, seafood, olive oil, cheese and pasta to the U.S. Budgeted at 40 million euros over a three-year period, the project is centered on informing American consumers about the strict requirements for ingredients and manufacturing processes that govern food made in Italy.

As vice minister of economic development Carlo Calenda said at FMI Connect, gorgonzola cheese made anywhere outside several designated provinces in northern Italy isn’t the real thing. Use of such authentic ingredients in cooking, he asserted, will create a superior culinary experience. Another selling point is the health benefits of many Italian food products, which form part of the Mediterranean diet.

For participating retailers, the Made in Italy program does several things: It gives customers already interested in Italian cooking new insights about products from that country and provides easier access to them; it expands the culinary horizons of others; and it helps trade shoppers up to higher-margin merchandise. Above and beyond those advantages, the campaign is one way grocers can make their stores stand out in very crowded field.

ITA is actively seeking additional retail partners in the U.S. Chains that sell a substantial amount of food would do themselves and their customers a favor by thinking about getting on board.


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