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The EU Promotion Policy - making an impact for Italian food and drink

Published: 13/05/2022

We spoke to the Italian Food & Drink Federation, Federalimentare to find out how the EU’s promotion policy is supporting growers and producers across Italy.

The Italian food industry, much like the wider European industry, provides consumers with high-quality products that are guaranteed in terms of safety and quality. The industry is constantly responding to market demands and it is evolving and successfully exploring innovative technologies, while remaining true to its tradition.

When it comes to the EU Promotion Policy, Federalimentare supports the broader goal of this strategy, which is to help increase the competitiveness of the food and drink sector, mainly in a tough context like the current one, marked by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine: both of them have a significant impact on worldwide agri-food chains, but the agri-food system has so far proven its resilience, stressing the importance of ensuring food security while avoiding additional social tensions.

The EU Promotion Policy is thus a tool that must reflect the current features of the market to better encourage the growth of the sector. At the same time, the policy must continue to stimulate the contribution of the agri-food sector to more sustainable food systems and support producers’ efforts.

Moreover, the Federalimentare stresses the need, within the Promotion Policy, that all products are able to equally apply for the promotion funding, keeping certain products from being exposed to the risk of discrimination and unfair competition from other companies, while insisting on the notion of responsible
consumption in the context of a varied and balanced diet.

Europe is well known for its rich and diverse food culture, particularly for those products that have designated Geographical Indications, its expression of tradition and innovation, as well as for its high production standards in terms of food safety and environmental regulations. A balanced budget allocation (for GIs, organic and generic promotion) is more than welcomed because sustainability, which is built on three pillars, namely economic, social, and environmental, extends far beyond local and organic farming alone.

In addition to this, Federalimentare welcomes the Promotion Policy coordination with other
Commission initiatives, such as the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, and EU trade policies.

Concerning the management of simple and multi programs, Federalimentare believes that their
coordination should be handled directly by the Commission and the relevant Agencies. Multiple programmes – which are more complex to be structured than the simple ones – have gained momentum and concretely encourage profitable exchanges among Member States and Third Countries. Payment conditions for EU-funded contributions (advance and interim payments) should be improved. Finally, it should consider providing for two stages of plan submission, as is already the case for European projects funded by the Horizon Europe and LIFE programs.

Many of the trade associations of Federalimentare have already benefited from the EU promotion funding.

Here are some successful stories experienced by ANICAV – the Italian National Association of Canned
Vegetable Industries
and ASSOLATTE – the Italian National Dairy Association.

Let’s start with the canned vegetable industry, which presented projects for the promotion of agricultural products in third countries, with the final shared goal of raising awareness, boosting visibility of Italian and EU excellences, increasing export quotas of interested products, fighting against the phenomenon of “EU/Italian sounding” and highlighting traceability, safety, quality, and tradition of EU products:

  • In 2018, concerning preserved Italian tomatoes whole or in pieces and not whole or not in pieces to be promoted in Asia (China, Japan, South Korea) and the United States. Actions & Activities: creation of a website in Chinese, Japanese and Korean; organization of 6 press events; launch of 3 social media accounts in each country to promote Italian and EU preserved tomatoes; participation of IT and EU representatives in TV programs and articles published in local magazines; creation of a promotional video; participation in fairs and organization of product tasting events in restaurants and points of sale. Key figures in Asia: over 3 million views of the video; over 8000 consumers reached; over 50,000 food sector professionals involved, and more than 4000 opinion leaders attained. Actions in the USA (still ongoing – it will end in July 2022): creation of a website in English; development of a food App; collaboration with Food bloggers and food journalists; organization of 3 press events in NY, Chicago, and San Francisco, and tasting weeks in restaurants; publication of 21 pages in sectoral magazines; launch of 3 social media accounts; participation in TV programs and in 5 relevant international fairs. Key figures in the USA: increasing of export quota by about €16.4 million over 3 years; raising awareness about quality of Italian and European preserved tomatoes; so far, more than 2.5 million consumers, more than 87,000 opinion leaders, 10 million hospitality professionals, 23,000 sector professionals and over 36,000 chefs have been reached through dedicated events organised.
  • In 2019, concerning San Marzano of Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP tomatoes to be promoted in the United States, as a EU excellence, while highlighting their high quality, authenticity, traceability and environmental sustainability, safety and the value of EU quality labels. Actions & Activities: creation of a website in English; 2 social media accounts; 20 collaborations with food bloggers & journalists; 3 press events and several press releases; restaurant tasting weeks and participation in 3 international trade fairs. Key figures: so far, over 3.3 million social media users, 83,000 opinion leaders, 56,000 consumers, 7000 food sector professional have been reached thanks to all activities.
  • In 2020, concerning canned legumes to be promoted in Australia and UAE (significant opportunity to be seized as the level of preserved legumes in these two markets is growing fast), it is still taking place and will come to its end in March 2024. Actions & Activities: creation of dedicated websites (in English for Australia and Arabic for the UAE); launch of 2 social media accounts in each country; 5 press events (in Sydney, Abu Dhabi, Melbourne, Dubai, and Brisbane); 20 collaborations with food bloggers and food journalists; chef online contests; participation in 6 international trade fairs. Key figures: involvement of about 330,000 consumers and over 1100 opinion leaders, 3900 chefs and 137,000 food sector professionals.

ASSOLATTE, the Italian dairy industry association, is managing a promotional campaign called “Discover the shapes of taste, Made in EU” in China, which is still a marginal market for the export of Italian cheeses. In fact, it represents 2% of extra-EU exports, but if we look at the trend of the last 10 years the requests for cheeses and dairy products have marked a growth of +850%. Italy is the second European supplier of dairy products to China and the fifth in the world.

In 2021, China showed a significant increase in imports of Italian cheeses (+43.7%, over 5000 tons) and remains an important target for the sector’s exports, especially for drinking milk, cream, and fresh cheeses, which are the most exported categories at the moment. The goal of the project is to present and promote Italian and EU dairy products, together with their nutritional qualities.

  • In 2020 (from October 2020 to September 2023), concerning milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese to be promoted in China. Actions & Activities: creation of a website in Chinese and English (www.shapesoftaste.cn) and social media accounts (incl. WeChat); dissemination of promotional and tutorial videos; organization of workshops, B2B events during main trade fairs of the sector, and press tours and dinners; incoming programs from China to Italy of Chinese operators (unfortunately, because of COVID-19 pandemic, many on-site promotional events had to slow down). Key Figures: more than 830,340 views of the campaign website; related to the first year of the promotional campaign, more than 2 million direct views of content against a target of 250,000, almost 800,000 campaign webpage views against a target of 30,000, more than 17,000 followers in total against a target of 15,000.