Aperitif or aperitivo? Either way, it is an important part of the day in France and Italy

Aperitif in French or aperitivo in Italy – these drinks are designed to awaken the palate and set the tone for an evening meal. Traditional aperitifs include herbal liqueurs, vermouths, spritzers, prosecco, white wine or light beer.

Typically, when served in restaurants or bars, these pre-dinner beverages are matched with appropriate pre-dinner snacks, which can range from elaborate cooked appetizers to quicker, ready-to-eat salty snacks such as pretzels, potato crisps or nuts. For at-home aperitif occasions, store-bought salty snacks provide a quick counterpoint to alcoholic beverages, and a number of snack manufacturers promote the occasion on pack. Some manufacturers also provide on-pack suggestions about appropriate pairings of their snacks with specific beverages, making it easy for the home chef/bartender to serve a pleasing aperitif selection.

Italian and French snackers may be losing interest in aperitif salty snacks

While they are known for their enthusiastic embrace of aperitif culture, French and Italian consumers seem to be backing off on salty snack consumption for the occasion. In 2012, 83% of French snackers and 55% of Italian snackers ate salty snacks when having aperitifs. By 2017 however, the percentage of French aperitif snackers fell by 14 points to 69% and the proportion of Italian aperitif snackers fell by 12 points, to 43%.

It is not clear whether these consumers are moving away from the aperitif moment in general or if they are avoiding the snack element of the occasion. It is also possible that while they are still drinking and eating during aperitif occasions, they are replacing salty snacks with healthier alternatives.

In 2016, around two in five French and Italian consumers said they were prepared to change their lifestyles to be healthier: replacing salty treats with snacks they perceive to be healthier may be one change that some of them are willing to make.

Aperitif options beyond salty snacks

The enduring popularity of the aperitif occasion means that what has likely changed is not the moment, but the snack. The aperitif occasion is so ingrained in the culture of Italian and French consumers that the two countries compete for the most popular aperitif beverage (Aperol spritz in Italy or Lillet in France), the best aperitif clubs and the most memorable aperitif music.
Instead of salty snacks, aperitif lovers are likely to be looking for healthier options, and manufacturers in France and Italy are launching a range of alternatives that are labelled and promoted as “suitable for aperitifs.” Among the healthier options are cheese, vegetables, and toasts, all of which are positioned as healthy choices.

Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Food and Drink, has been with Mintel since 2000. Her expertise is centered on a number of areas in confectionery and snacks. Before joining Mintel, Marcia headed her own consulting company which focused on consumer behavior and product innovation in a wide range of industries.

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