24,100 square feet, 250 exhibitors, thousands of products. Walking around the Italian Pavilion at Fancy Food 2009 was educating, interesting…and really fun!
In the stands, products were exposed with an artistic touch: various shapes of pastas of all different colors were arranged forming fanciful decorations, white trays of milky mozzarella were reminiscent of fresh summer dinners on the terrace, while chunks of Parmigiano cascaded from huge shapes of cheeses, just as lava from a volcano. Squares of chocolate of many different varieties were offered as a small treat after having tasted delicious pasta alla matriciana, or ai quattro formaggi prepared according to tradition by the numerous chefs present; or a slice of focaccia bread with mortadella, or maybe a portion of Roman porchetta.
Thirsty? Nothing better than a sip of Italian wine : red, white, or rosè, depending on what you just had to eat. Or maybe you’d like a glass of Italian bottled water envied the world over for its nutritional properties and mineral contents.
The variety of products exposed was embarrassingly wide, and it was impossible to make a choice. So you ended up trying everything, and needing an espresso coffee, just as they do in Italy after a big meal. And there they were - four, five, six Italian espresso coffee stands ready to offer you their best espresso stretto.
People of all generations, of different nationalities and social extractions came to take a tour around that small reproduction of Italy, trying and sipping products they never saw before. They all stopped by to have a bit of this or that…or, to say the truth, of everything they saw that attracted them: you could see that many just couldn’t resist the temptation!
Behind the counters, many vendors, exhibitors, importers, representatives of public and private entities, associations, and consortiums, looked visibly satisfied by this edition of the show. With no doubt, indeed, the Fancy Food is THE occasion to introduce their “jewels” to a wide audience of consumers and American importers. It has become for many the key to enter the American market.
We interviewed some of them, those whose products, stands, or looks appealed to us the most. They told us about their business, their products and what expectations they had after their participation in this event.
“Our consortium was founded in 2007. The 10 participating companies produce typical Mediterranean goods such as olive oil, wine, fruit, processed vegetables, cheeses, cold cuts… As the only consortium in the Calabria region established for marketing purposes , companies that want to join us must offer great standards of quality. We already export in 14 different nations in the world, but this year our aim is to establish larger channels of exportation in America. We already have a medium-high range market here, but we have also been asked to export lower-quality oils, pastas and cheeses that could be affordable for a wider range of consumers. But we won’t do this: bringing the best of Calabria to America is our main goal, and we won’t betray it”.
“We founded this company about 5 years ago, and decided to sell our oil on a large scale and find new markets abroad. This is the first time that we come to the United States, as our export market is mainly in the East, our main clients being the Japanese. We consider Fancy Food as an occasion to find distributors for a niche market, as our high-standard DOP oil is not a large consumer product. With 4 million bottles of olive oil produced every year and only 50 employees working for us, we are a pretty small company, compared to the American standards. Our experience tells us that in America importers care much for quantity and quite little for quality, so it might be pretty hard for us to find a distributor that fits our needs. Our business is also menaced by the diffusion of counterfeit products, in this and other countries. We used to export to Switzerland, but we don’t anymore. Cheap oils replaced our more expensive, but genuine and organic product. Today people can find oils that cost them 2.50$ per bottle on the supermarket shelves. And they buy them! They should be more conscentious with what they put on their tables and use in their recipes, as those oils are made with chemical additives and are often the result of a blend of different substances.
- Alfredo D'Innocenzo, National Accounts Manager
“Exporting to the United States since the beginning of the 20th century, our brand has become synonymous with “Made in Italy” in this country. Our grain is the best on the market, and our production system is patented. In America we are famous for our “rigatoni” and “orecchiette”, and lately the new line of ‘whole wheat pasta’ has also become very popular, together with the new kinds of pasta sauces we are producing. Organic products are also becoming a hit in this country, especially in New York and San Francisco and, more in general, in the metropolitan areas. ‘Italian-sounding” pasta brands, however, damage our importats. Of course up-scale restaurants and chefs can tell the difference between us and other kinds of pasta that are not produced in Italy. But in the retail sector it’s much harder to win this unfair competition since people tend to prefer products that cost less.”
“This year’s edition of Fancy Food is just great. I participated in this huge event several times already and as the years pass by the Italian Pavilion looks more and more like a reproduction of Italy. I became friendly with many of my colleagues. It’s like being in the central square of a small town where you can have a chat or two with everybody, drink free espresso and savor excellent cheeses and bread. Having the opportunity to make new contacts, it’s also a great way to enhance my businesses. I import a wide variety of Italian products, from pasta and cheeses, to honey and oil. Restaurants are our main clients: both American and Italian ones want to offer the best to their clients, so they buy our products.
“ We produce in Abruzzo and import our coffee from Brazil and India. It’s twelve years or so that we have participated in Fancy Food. We are already well-known to American consumers, especially in big metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Conca d’Oro is our importer for the New York area. This year, as always, our aim is to reinforce our presence in the national market. You know, clients come and go, and it’s always very important to be seen around. Fortunately, however, our product is unique. Counterfeit espresso does not exist, since it is a uniquely Italian tradition and people are very fond of it.
|GAROFALO - Luca De Luca, Director of the Commercial Division
“We have been participating in Fancy Food for many years. We find in it an occasion to strengthen our partnership with American importers and food retailers and establish new channels. America has become one of our most important export markets especially since we launched our new line, ‘Garofalo Signature’. In New York and in other big metropolitan areas it is getting more and more popular, both for its elegant packaging and its outstanding quality. Of course, just like any Italian company exporting to America, we have to face the competition of Made-in-America-Italian-sounding pastas. Both consumers and restaurants tend to prefer them because they are cheaper and that’s also because Italian restaurants in this country are now owned by non-Italians who are 'Americanizing' them."
“We have been participating in Fancy Food for the past three years but this edition is the most important for us. We finally opened a new company in New Jersey, and the porchetta we produce there is just as good as the one we have in Ariccia, in the province of Rome. This year we are also coming up with ‘pre-cut porchetta’, a user-friendly product that we are sure will become very popular with American consumers. Moreover, it’s a healthy and affordable meal. You’ll find our porchetta in stores all throughout the US within six months”.
"We are one of the largest cheese importers in the country. We supply over 10 million tons of cheese a year to the Olive Garden group that owns 700 hundred restaurants. Every year we bring all the chefs to Italy to learn more about Italian food, and the proper way to cook it. When they come back to America they try to make it as authentic as possible, bringing the true flavors of the regions of Italy here. Another important characteristic of this chain, is that entire families can go to have dinner there since it is so affordable. It’s typically Italian. Anna, one of the top-five chefs in Italy, has a family-type osteria herself. When we bring the chefs to Rome, they take lessons from her and learn what “true Italian” is all about”. As far as my business is concerned, in occasion of the show we are launching a new kind of cheese in America. It is Sicilian and is made with pecorino and different kind of flavors, from arucola to sun-dried tomatoes and different herbs and spices”.
- Paolo Lafata, Culinary Center Sr.Executive Chef Manager
:I am the owner and chef of a restaurant near Rome, “Osteria.” Some time ago, Mr Lotito came to my place after having read an article in “Travel Leisure”. He just loved it, and invited me to participate with his company in this year’s edition of Fancy Food. Since he imports cheeses, in particular from Rome and Sicily, we agreed that this was a great occasion to introduce the American public to some traditional Roman recipes, such as amatriciana which calls for Roman pecorino cheese, and pasta “cacio e pepe” in which, as the name suggests, the main ingredient is the Roman “cacio”cheese.I am the Head Chef of the culinary laboratory of Olive Garden, and my experience tells me that American people love pasta dishes that have lots of cheese in them! Without a doubt, their favorites are pasta ai quattro formaggi and linguine Alfredo. Lotito imports the best selection of Italian cheeses to this country and we at Olive Garden are proud to collaborate with them. We consider ourselves a “true Italian restaurant”, and we use only the best ingredients to prepare for our clients the dishes that have made Italian cuisine famous worldwide.”