Are transparent tomatoes key to Italian trust?

October 24, 2014
4 min read

After recent food scares, such as Europe’s E.coli outbreak in beansprouts in 2011, there has been increased consumer interest in provenance and demand for greater traceability amongst Italian consumers. They are the most source conscious consumers, in fact, they are more concerned with the source of their fruit and vegetables than most consumers across Europe. Indeed, 84% of Italians agree that they would like to know where their vegetables come from, compared to France, the next largest with 76% .

Italian attitudes reflect a wider trend for consumers to seek more information and connection with the foods they eat. Interest in product origin is particularly strong in Italy as many consumers still have traditional relationships with greengrocers, with 70% buying fruit and veg there. Italians also have green fingers as a quarter (26%) of Italians still grow their own fruit and vegetables.

Today, safety concerns remain at the forefront of the consumer mindset. In fact, 73% of Italian consumers agree that they take greater care to wash fruit and vegetables following food scares, a higher figure than any other reviewed market in Europe.

Italian brands in the fruit and vegetable category have responded to this desire for more transparency. Brands and retailers are now commonly highlighting domestic or regional provenance, with the claim of 100% Italian sourcing tapping into concerns about the supply chain processes of farmers abroad, while regional products attempt to benefit from the rich history of traditional growing regions.

Provenance is a particularly important feature in the Italian tomato segment, where it is primarily used as an indicator of high quality and a justification for added value. Almost all brands highlight that their tomatoes are “grown in Italy”, with premium brands typically sourcing products from the Nocerino Sarnese region in southern Italy, which is famous for its San Marzano tomatoes. Artisanal attributes are also focused on, such as hand-picked or sun-dried. This also promotes the human element of products and continues to reassure consumers by providing consumers with a better idea of the manufacturing process.

It is not only tomatoes revealing all, brands operating in other segments of the fruit and vegetable category also now provide detailed information about the methods used to grow products. Particularly popular is integrated farming, which offers an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional techniques. Brands often combine this with a focus on the farms or areas used to grow products, providing consumers with a great level of transparency. Bonduelle is perhaps the most high profile proponent of this farming method, though I Freschi Di Campo, Carrefour and the Coop have all embraced it in recent years.

Other brands have gone a step further to ensure transparency, employing accreditation agencies to reassure consumers of their quality and traceability. Selex, for example, features the Certiquality logo on its Natura Chiama products, with the company claiming that the agency ensures “quality, traceability and integrated farming”. Conad, meanwhile, informs consumers of its own internal quality checks that ensure products are grown with environmentally friendly techniques, as well as strict controls on production and distribution.

Italian retailers and manufacturers could benefit from looking across Europe and further abroad to embrace initiatives used there that could encourage consumers to shift their fruit and vegetable purchasing habits towards more modern retail channels. For example, the German brand Frosta, included a QR code on the back of their vegetables from Germany range in April 2014, which, when scanned, opens Frosta’s online ingredient tracker. This allows consumers to track the origins of every ingredient used in Frosta products for maximum transparency. Methods such as this are worth exploring in the digital age, to ensure confidence and trust from Italian consumers.

Working as a Global Food and Drink Analyst, Patty leverages her in-depth knowledge of consumer trends to bring keen, insightful and forward-thinking strategies and tactics to Mintel’s client base. She has built a strong reputation within the food industry by publishing articles in key publications and giving presentations at multiple food industry events and conferences.

Patty Johnson
Patty Johnson

Patty Johnson, is the Associate Director, Purchase Intelligence at Mintel. Patty brings insightful and forward-thinking strategies and tactics to Mintel’s Food and Drink client base.

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