Finnish food and drinks to Italy – selling snow to Santa?
It is known fact that Italy has a strong culinary tradition and more than enough of quality food and beverages. Italians still stick to their own food by and large, but the lockdown brought some changes. When ordering food home Italians started experimenting with sushi, other Mediterranean dishes like falafels, hummus and similar. Also homebaking saw a boom.
What can Finnish food and beverage industry offer to Italy?
Apart from a solitary liquorice bag or a Kyrö gin bottle, there is nothing from Finland on Italian shelves. What are the trends that could create space for Finnish products now that Italian palates start appreciating new flavours? – Sustainability is gaining importance: not only in packaging, but also in production process. Locally sourced ingredients grown in pure Finnish nature, definitely yes. Free-from products: it is estimated that there are 600 000 Italians with coeliac disease and Italian regions offer a voucher to buy glutein free products. Italians are still rather carnivorous but the number of flexitarians is rising due to environmental awareness. Plant-based drinks are gaining foothold whilst plant-based proteins are still marginal. As of now Finland sells mostly raw materials to Italian food industry, but we see a clear opportunity for end-products with good stories.
Alcohol from Finland to Italy – why not?
Italians love their drinks. Weekly, 52 % of Italians drink beer, 30 % wine and 38 % hard liquors. Non-alcoholic drinks are making their way to Italy, too, but at slower pace than in many European countries. Gin consumption grows in double digits, whilst whisky and vodka consumption is more stable. Beer market grew in 2022 almost 21 %, showing a transition from wine drinking tradition. 100 years ago wine consumption in Italy was 100 litres per capita yearly, but now only around 32 litres. In the old times wine was a basic food product to keep people going – not the hedonistic drink of today.
The first buyers’ meeting in Rome
In November Food from Finland programme organised in Rome a buyers’ meeting with a big Italian horeca -player, supported by Finnica Consulting and Embassy of Finland in Italy in Rome. The preparations were done in great Team Finland spirit, led by Esa Wrang of Business Finland for whom Italy is a second home turf. To our delight, nine Finnish beverage and food companies signed up. The event was inaugurated by Ambassador Matti Lassila, who hosted us in the beautiful residence.
The Italian buyers were thrilled not only about the products but also the stories behind them. They praised the fine flavours and aromas created with Finnish ingredients, whether in gin, whisky, vodka or beer. Also Salmari was appreciated, as Southern Italy has the tradition to use liquorice root.
The elegancy of packaging got also attention, in particular the striking design of #salamabrewing cans, which really stroke the eye of the buyers.
Our embassy chef Kimmo Kettunen used Linkosuo Oy and Hätälä Oy products to whip up a wonderful Finnish lunch for the Italian buyers. – Salmon consumption is growing steadily in Italy. Healthier snacks are a growing segment, too, in the flourishing aperitivo culture.
How to access the market – right partners are the key!
We were promised an opportunity to come and attend the buyers’ Open Day in March 2024, presenting the Finnish products to a larger audience, covering also end-clients and sales agents. I am positive, that in no time there will be Finnish beverage and food products in Italy. Horeca is a great way to access the market and create demand, and then Finland hits the retail market, too!
Author: Silva Paananen, Finnish Embassy in Rome