Italy is the third-largest economy in the Eurozone, with an estimated GDP of US$1.9 trillion. Its food consumption levels are among the highest in the world, with a GDP per capita of USD $31,630. As well as being an importing country, Italy is a major exporter of food products, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, which have a reputation for very high quality.
Fresh fruit among top food imports
Italy relies heavily on imports for raw materials for its processed food industry. Progress in food technology, marketing innovations, “Made in Italy” products (including pasta, olive oil, fresh fruit and vegetables) and exports of ready-to-eat food products have contributed to the growing demand for food ingredients in Italy. In 2020, its imports of consumer-oriented products totalled US$25.6 billion, which mainly consisted of dairy, meat and fresh fruit. Around 80% of these imports came from other EU member countries, whose proximity and prices make them attractive. The US is also a market of great interest to Italy, with trade flowing in both directions between the two countries. In 2020, US agricultural exports to Italy totalled $1 billion, while US imports from Italy were worth $5.5 billion.
Food retail very fragmented in Italy
The Italian food retail market is highly diversified. It features a large number of hypermarkets and supermarkets, as well as many convenience, discount, and specialty stores, all of which coexist alongside traditional neighbourhood shops and open-air markets, which are still thriving. In 2020, Conad became the leader in Italian retail, when it completed the acquisition of 1,600 Auchan points of sale, operated under the Auchan Italy, Simply and Sma brands. In the same year, Eurospin Italia expanded its network to 1,100 stores, and German chains Lidl, Aldi and Penny Market announced the opening of 140 new stores to also strengthen their presence in Italy.
Pandemic fuelled free-from & local food trends
Covid-19 has accelerated the healthy eating trend in Italy, with a resurgence of vegan, vegetarian alternatives and superfoods, as well as of gluten-free, lactose-free and sugar-free products. Home cooking trends triggered by the lockdown boosted sales of staple foods and cooking ingredients, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as pasta, rice, processed meats and seafood, edible oils, sauces, dressings and condiments. The pandemic also strengthened the tendency to source local food, benefiting “Made in Italy” products, which became a gesture of solidarity on the part of the Italian consumer towards local producers.
Current consumer trends in Italy:
- Changes in purchasing habits: Demographic change is driving new consumption habits, with households consisting of one or two members growing, while households of four or more people are falling.
- New consumption alternatives: There is increased interest in local products, vegetarian options and free-from products.
- Interest in healthy eating: The pandemic, the aging of the population and greater consumer awareness about health have increased Italy’s demand for certain foods, with greater emphasis on generating well-being and health to improve quality of life.
- More informed consumers: Italian consumers are more aware of what they are buying and demand increasing traceability and information about production methods.
Key Figures 2020
Population: 60.3 million
GDP: $1.9 trillion
GDP per capita: US$31,630
Top 10 Italian Retailers
2) Coop Italia
3) Selex Gruppo Commerciale SpA
4) Esselunga SpA
5) Crai Secom SpA
6) Gruppo VéGé
7) Gruppo Eurospin
8) Schwarz Gruppe
9) Carrefour SA
10) Spar Intl.