Crai has supermarkets, superettes and food stores throughout Italy, from the Valle d’Aosta to Sicily and from Calabria to the Veneto. It is remarkable for its ubiquitousness, reaching over 1000 towns and villages, which makes it the qualitative leader of the neighbourhood store market from the point of view of having a familiar, everyday relationship with the customers. Another of the Crai group’s strengths, apart from its network of over 3400 points of sale, is its innovative multi-channel retail model, as it covers two distinct major value chains: as well as food (75%), 25% of its points of sale specialise in cleaning products and toiletries, making the Crai group the second-largest operator in this sector in Italy.
Only high-quality fruit
Fruit and vegetables are a prominent product area for Crai, accounting for around 60% by volume of its outlets’ sales of own-brand products.
“The basic premise is that Crai selects and offers its customers fruit and vegetables that not only look good but also meet high quality, flavour and taste standards and are of excellent eating quality, giving priority to Italian products,” explained Roberto Bonalumi, the Very Fresh products, Meat and Fruit and Vegetable buyer. “Specifically, as regards stone fruit we find different situations depending on each product. For cherries, for example, this has not been the best year. Quality was excellent initially but because of bad weather the main growing areas such as Apulia, Veneto and Emilia Romagna have had difficulties with the resistance of the product and, above all, the fruit has not been at its best from the point of view of flavour and firmness.”
Verdello, the summer lemon variety
As regards citrus fruit, particularly lemons, Crai is pursuing a project, backed by a major communication effort, to have the Italian product on sale throughout the year.
“For example, in summer we sell Verdello, a summer lemon variety that has plenty of juice and good acidity but is usually replaced by Spanish or Argentine lemons because its smooth green skin is not considered aesthetically pleasing.”
Tomatoes that taste the way they used to
The main feature of the tomato market this year has been the size of the crop. On the one hand the volume on offer has meant lower returns for the growers, but on the other hand it has also meant that customers have always been able to find a quality product at a good price. The main reason is that the winter was not cold enough in the classic growing areas. “In tomatoes, as in all fruit and vegetable products, the tendency is to re-evoke and not lose ‘the way it used to taste’, so it is no surprise that all the new varieties have been aiming above all to rediscover taste, not just to look good. At Crai we prioritise the availability in our range of products grown in Italy, with different varieties and different local/regional qualities depending on the season.”
Local specialities in onions and garlic
Supplies of onions and garlic have not presented any great problem. In these categories also, the tendency in recent years has been to supply an increasingly deep and specialised range.
“That is why we sell different types of onions — as well as the classic Tropea variety, we have Borettana and Acquaviva — and different types of garlic and shallots.”
In order to improve customer satisfaction and ensure continuous improvement throughout the entire company, Crai has introduced, strengthened and achieved certification of a quality system that complies with the UNI EN IS0 14000, ISO 22000, SA8000 and ISO 9001:2008 standards, covering environmental management, food safety, social responsibility and the quality management system itself. “In addition, all our suppliers have certificates such as GLOBALGAP, BRC and IFS in order to protect our customers.”
Branded products an established certainty
With its Filiera Italiana Garantita guaranteed Italian range of fruit and vegetables, Crai has set itself a simple, precise goal: to offer its customers the best Italian products in season, bought directly from the best growers and guaranteed by its own brand. To do this, it has set rigid selection criteria. All the fruit and vegetables are exclusively Italian and come from growing areas that are particularly suited to each product.
“Our branded products are high quality products. To make the grade, they have to possess all the eating quality characteristics of the variety, degrees Brix, firmness, juice and sugar/acid balance. Their Italian origin is fundamental and they have to be handled and packed by companies that meet all the requirements that Crai demands.”
A new line in organic products
In February 2016 the company presented its new organic product line under the CRAI Bio brand. It comprises over 70 items, covering groceries, dried products, fruit and vegetables and fresh-cut products, to satisfy consumers who pay increasing attention to what they put on the table. With its organic product line, Crai is paying attention to an ever-wider category of demanding, well-informed consumers whose food choices are not very homogenous.
“From Mediterranean diet fans to vegans and to everyone who loves taste and has the environment at heart, CRAI Bio satisfies all the nuances of taste at the table. The very fresh range includes cherry and cherry plum tomatoes, lemons, courgettes, apples, pears, kiwifruit, etc.”