Different approaches, different sales dynamics and modalities, but one common aspect characterizes bio product distribution in Italy: the desire to speed up in a segment that generates a 3.6 billion Euro turnover in Italy alone and shows positive growth trends with more flattering results in large-scale retail trade than in specialized retail.
This is what emerged at the round table entitled «Bio product distribution in Italy, comparing experiences», held this morning in Milan and which, within the context of the debate among key distribution players on the sector’s future, included a presentation of B/Open, Veronafiere’s new start-up trade show aimed exclusively at producers, processers and trade professionals from large-scale retail, supermarket chains, retail stores, the Ho.Re.Ca. channel, speciality stores and herbalists, perfumeries, pharmacies and drug stores.
Participants in the debate, moderated by Angelo Frigerio, Director of Bio&Consumi, were Vladimiro Adelmi, Brand Manager at Coop Italia for the Solidal and Vivi Verde lines, Renzo Agostini, owner of TerraeSole, Fabrio Brescacin, President of EcorNaturaSì, Giuseppe Cantone, Manager of the Unes bio line, Saul Celora, Marketing Manager at TerraeSole, Roberto Comolli, BU Manager for Il Viaggiator Goloso, Massimo Lorenzoni, CEO of La Finestra sul Cielo, Carmen Quatrale, representing Coop Italia and Giovanni Panzeri, Private Label Manager for Carrefour.
The first edition of B/Open in 2020: an exclusively B2B trade show
Representing Veronafiere were Flavio Innocenzi, Commercial Director, Gianni Bruno, Exhibition Manager for the Wine & Food area, and Sergio Rossi, consultant for B/Open. The first edition of B/Open will be held from 1st to 3rd April at the Verona Expo Centre and sector insiders are keeping an interested eye on this trade show aimed exclusively at trade professionals. «It was the show that was missing» commented Renzo Agostini, founder of the TerraeSole Group together with wife, Antonella Baldazzi, «because there wasn’t an event exclusively focused on b2b and this is fundamental for trader and supply chain communication».
The bio product world is now a healthy segment, especially since it stands on solid pillars that make research into naturalness, well-being, sustainability and safeguarding the environment their main motivational drivers behind purchases.
Sales dynamics have changed over time with large-scale retail now representing 45% of purchases showing a growth rate of 14 per cent.
«Large-scale retail overtook speciality stores three years ago and now the gap has widened» said Massimo Lorenzoni, Managing Director of La Finestra sul Cielo, a company that has been operating on the organic food market since 1978 and is part of the Ideateam Group. «This is because bio product consumption has increased and distribution now involves large-scale retailers as well as hard discount stores».
The bio product sector arouses considerable interest with a rapidly growing market
While still awaiting official figures, it is estimated, as Lorenzini reported, that there are «1,500 bio product speciality stores; a number that doesn’t seem to have changed over the years but which, in reality, registers an evolution. Single, independently managed sales points have decreased while the number of chain stores is on the rise».
«As a specialty chain store,» he continued, «under the banner of Nat&Bio, we have set up a shop in shop that not only offers a fresh organic food, greengrocery and dry food department, but also kitchen ingredients, a drug store with focus on homeopathic remedies, a herbalist and a restaurant. This formula was introduced eight years ago and it works. We manage to promote bio products through the distribution key, it is essential for us».
Cultural tools and training support are also crucial for a bio product pioneer like Renzo Agostini, owner of the TerraeSole Group, the first certified bio product store in Europe and which, since 1992 to present day, has extended to include production, distribution platform, restaurants and even a complementary medicine centre.
«Nowadays, the bio market has extraordinary growth potential» he said. «But it is important that the different models coexist: large-scale retail, speciality stores, catering. If the bio product market were only in the hands of large-scale retail and speciality store owners and did not include catering, it wouldn’t work. But the future also needs to include homeopathy and complementary medicine».
The bio product sector is considered as a «strategic growth asset also for Carrefour and is part of the strategy the group has defined until 2022», revealed Giovanni Panzeri, Private Label Manager at Carrefour. «We are working on actions to democratize bio products and make them accessible to everyone» Panzeri specified, «and in two or three months’ time, we will have a couple of supermarkets and hypermarkets in Lombardy and Piedmont with a shop in shop system specifically for bio products».
Another growth channel, «with double percentages compared to traditional sales is e-commerce, where Carrefour has a section dedicated to bio products. Pet-food is also recording good performances».
And then, «for the fresh goods segment, where Carrefour has a 2% higher than average offer, there are also internal solutions for exchanging best practices on an international level, especially with our colleagues in France, Spain and Belgium», Panzeri continued.
One of the «organic» pioneers among large-scale retailers is Coop, which has developed transversal organic lines under the brands Solidal and Vivi Verde, where great attention is also paid to the environment. And, with a view to environmental sustainability, Coop has also joined the European Commission’s campaign to reduce the use of plastic in all its brand products in the name of environmental protection. «Since 2010» said Vladimiro Adelmi, Brand Manager for Coop Italia, «we have witnessed a rapid evolution in consumption with the organic sector showing increasingly more growth. But there has also been a boom in vegan and vegetarian products, super-foods, free-from products and an authentic explosion in the health-care department. The bio sector will grow in the future thanks to multi-channelling and e-commerce, which reduces the so-called time to market. Furthermore, the entrance of atypical traders, which will be able to deliver fresh organic products to consumers, perhaps even on the same day, will affect sales. But, will consumers accept these solutions?»
This could be a topic for debate at B/Open, scheduled to take place at Veronafiere from 1st to 3rd April 2020. «It is certainly an interesting challenge» said Adelmi. «A trade show targeted on trade professionals is a recipe for success because it puts bio product producers and goods and service suppliers into contact».
According to Giuseppe Cantone, Purchasing Manager for the high range Il Viaggiator Goloso (Unes Group), «in the future, the bio product sector will have to communicate its own values, production rules, certification system, perhaps by aiming to unite the principles of organic production with the phenomenon of functional foods, a segment whose sales are growing and which could, obviously by following the regulations, be integrated with the organic food lines».
The arrival of a b2b trade show like B/Open is positive also for Cantone. «Traders need to reflect together and do training because the bio sector can only grow to the measure in which it responds to consumer needs».