The figures for the Italian ecological sector in general show a substantial stability of the sales in terms of value, with 5,000 million euros in 2022 (up to July), of which 3,900 million euros were purchased by the large distribution sector, equivalent to a -0.8% drop compared to the same period in 2021 (data from Nomisma 2022) and 1,000 million euros of exports, equivalent to a +53% rise regarding 2021.
The year’s results were extraordinarily positive for exports, which reached +16% in 2022. The Italian large distribution maintained its sales stable (-0.8%) and it concentrates 50% of the share. On the other hand, it is reducing the number of articles sold in hypermarkets and supermarkets, with -5% less, while the offer of articles is being extended in the discount channel.
‘It’s bio’ is seeking consumers
The Italian company AOP GruppoVi.Va is carrying out a project funded by the European Union to promote both consumption and the values of ecological agriculture in Italy, Greece and Belgium. It is accompanied in this campaign, as collaborators, by Almaverde Bio, Apofruit, Codma OP, Ca’ Nova, Coop Sole, AOP La Mongolfiera, OrtoRomi and OP Terre di Bari.
Mario Tamanti Manager of AOP GruppoVi.Va, says that “in this context, after so many years of growth, the organic sector is running the risk of paying the highest price of the crisis with important repercussions on environmental sustainability, along with food healthiness and safety.” Tamanti underscores that “the cohesion of the production system with aggregation models in a network such as AOP GruppoVi.Va is very important, and these are also being turned into important tools for the promotion and valuation of the products. The project ‘It´s Bio’ is an example of our potential. It is aimed at communicating the values of ecological fruit and vegetables in Italy, Belgium and Green over the three-year period of 2022-2025 for a total value of 1.5 million euros, with actions targeting the improvement of knowledge by consumers about the ecological fruit and vegetable offer, emphasising the aspects related to sustainability, the environment, as well as health and safety.”
“Producers are significantly concerned,” according to Ernesto Fornari, General Manager of Apofruit. “Particularly because the EU is making a strong commitment to converting 25% of agricultural land into ecological farming between now and 2030, meaning an important increase in the offer to which a response will have to be made with a synergy between production and distribution, starting up actions and resources to extend the size of the market. We need to start a growth process in time if we want the European policies to be successful, and to do this we are tackling the large distribution chains in particular, to ensure that they don’t move off course, but rather they increase and promote their attention towards ecological produce.”
Roberto Pinton, an Italian member of the board of IFOAM, emphasises the need to reposition organic produce to adapt it to the transformations of European society in recent years: “The European Union has a road map. France has taken on the leadership in bio surface area with 2.5 million hectares in 2020 (data from FIBL), followed by Spain with 2.4 million and Italy with 2.1 million hectares. The conversion process is under way with important policies supporting it. European consumption also continues to grow, as can be seen by our exports. The penetration in channels such as the HORECA must be extended, not only in mass catering, but in all the products that are eaten outside the home. Another fundamental element is the positioning of organic products. There is no need to drop the prices. We must focus on where organic produce should be located within the supply chain, highlighting its values better.”
Formula for success: Almaverde Bio islands
In Italy, an example of success is the positive data from the experience of the Almaverde Bio islands. The Manager, Paolo Pari, explains that “we already have 45 islands directly managed by Canova with different sales formats. The islands are characterised by their extensive ranges and the depth of the offer that guarantees better service and greater attraction. The direct management allows an exact maintenance of the range and greater dynamism, both for the management of the offer and for the management of the promotional actions, promptly translating the opportunities that the production can offer into purchase opportunities.”
The formula works: the first half of 2022 was positive, with 12% growth in June and 14% in July. “The Almaverde Bio islands are giving us a sign that ecological sales are not going to stop if the offer is adapted to the consumers’ needs. Now, more than ever, the sector needs this. Coherence and cohesion between the links of the supply chain, highlighting, in communication terms, all the aspects that make organic agriculture into an option for the environment and for personal well-being.”