Focus on dietary trends in Italy


Food – it's all about taste and culture!

- Food is central to Italy's identity. A significant share of Italian people's spending goes on food: 14.1% (versus 12% across the EU) – their second biggest outlay (3rd across the EU).
- First and foremost, Italian gastronomy is regional. It forms an integral part of local cultural identity and is a reminder of just how recently Italy became a united country (1861).
- Evidence of this is seen in people's purchasing behaviour: a product being of Italian origin is its main selection criterion (for 34% of all consumers), ahead of price (22%) and the quality of the ingredients (20%). In 10 years, consumption of locally-produced products has jumped by 17%.
- Italians favour short distribution channels and the financial crisis resulted in a form of economic patriotism, supporting local producers. Numbers of mercato del continado, where farmers sell directly to consumers, have increased.

Italian consumers prefer to shop on a regular basis. In 2012, people in the north went shopping every two days; in the south, they went every 1.5 days.
- As well as feeding people, Italian gastronomy is part of the country's heritage: the country has 252 PDO, PGI and STG (traditional speciality guaranteed) products, accounting for 23% of Europe's total.
- Italians do, however, embrace world cuisine: between 2007 and 2012, the ethnic products segment saw the most growth (40% in volume) of all sales in large and medium retail outlets.  In 2015, a third of all Italians said that they had had at least one ethnic dish the previous month, and 57.5% said they had increased their consumption of world cuisine dishes over the last five years.

Eat better, but quickly, practically and most important of all, less expensively

The desire for a healthier diet

- Some consumers want products that are healthy and sustainable: in 2016, 34% said that they wanted to see more "healthy lifestyle" products on the shelves, 28% wanted more ethnic and environmentally-friendly products, and 23% said they wanted more products with natural ingredients.
- Around 8% of all Italians are vegetarians (as opposed to only 3% in France) – that's an increase of 15% on 2013; of these, 46.7% say that they are motivated by concerns over their health/well-being, 30% are concerned about animal welfare, and 12% are vegetarians for reasons to do with protecting the environment.
- These factors have a direct influence on sales: between January and May 2016, dried fruit sales increased by 14%, fresh fruit sales increased by 5.2% and vegetable sales increased by 3.4%, while sales of meat and cheese fell by 4.2% and 2.7%, respectively.
- Organic product sales increased by an average of 12.3% per year over the period 2010-2015.

A more "practical" diet
- Italy hasn't escaped the global trend of "facilitating" dietary practices, and 29% of consumers would like to find more products that "make life easier". For example, sales of sliced salted meat increased by 13.2% in 2016, sales of pre-cooked dishes increased by 36.6%, sales of salads increased by 23.5% and sales of snacks/sandwiches increased by 36.8%.

Apart from the desire for practical foodstuffs which is shared by many consumers, these trends can also be attributed to a fall in purchasing power, something which is forcing Italians to limit their trips to restaurants and to give preference to less expensive snacks.

A less-expensive diet
- The consequences of the financial crisis have forced Italians to make changes to their dietary habits: between 2009 and 2015, Italians' spending on food (at constant 2010 prices) fell by 7.5%.
- They are always keen to find bargains: 90% said that they looked at promotional flyers to guide their shopping choices.

Sources: ADOC 2012, Agrifood monitor, CIA World Factbook, ISTAT, OECD, Eurispes, Nielsen, USDA

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