If today we may all feel a little victims and proponents of the globalisation era, we cannot avoid noticing (for good or bad) the tremendous impact the open markets are generating in terms of cultural awareness and increased business opportunities throughout the globe. The rise of the world wide web certainly spearheaded the e-commerce and with it, the consequent augmentation of international distribution platforms that make it possible to distribute and to acquire goods with virtually no borders, with advantages for both consumers and producers. It is from these premises that we would like to ease into how the Italian way, in some of its manifestations, is becoming more predominant and “available” in the land of opportunities that is indeed North America. Our goal is to share a few tips to raise awareness as you look at Italy, the Bel Paese, as destination for your business or incentive travels.
1. The Automobile Industry: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles aka FCA – Italy driving its way back into the U.S.
It was October 13, 2009 when FCA U.S. LLC, aka Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, was first traded on both Wall Street and the Milan Stock Exchange, marking the beginning of a new era for the automobile industry. The M&A between the Italian automaker and one of the largest names in American car manufacturing (with 2014 Fiat’s acquisition of 100% of Chrysler shares and a final investment of about $3,7 billions) resulted in a double outcome, with Fiat restoring Chrysler from bankruptcy and allowing it to employ Fiat’s technology of smaller and less polluting engines, while allowing the Italian automaker to drive (literally) itself back into the American auto industry, by accessing the internal distribution channels of Chrysler. Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) was born in Torino in 1899 and it has been the Italian automaker par excellence ever since, turning to be during the ‘50s, a symbol of the ‘Italian economical miracle’ in the aftermath of the Second World War when, by producing affordable and comfortable cars it drove consumerism and encouraged the new economical revolution. Fiat for Italy is much more than just a car maker: it embodies a piece of its history and its identity, an identity that is reassessing and reshaping its profile and financial persona, planning for the future by reaching into global markets and thus, into America.
2. The Food & Beverage Industry: Lavazza, San Pellegrino and much more – around the table we are all Italians.
As passionate (or needy) about coffee as America is, it was impossible for Italy not to find its way into this thirsty market. Among the brands we see distributed in retails, one stands out: Luigi Lavazza S.p.A. This Piedmontese brand, founded in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza and just celebrating its 120 years anniversary, is a rare example of an Italian family business, led today by its fourth generation, that has been rapidly expanded in the U.S. through its agreements with Green Mountain Coffee Roaster Inc., that operates with Keurig. Most coffee shops and restaurants throughout America offer the option for espresso or cappuccino and it seems that an increasingly larger audience is also drawn to the caffe corretto (coffee with a twist), perhaps enriched with a splash of Sambuca Molinari (also widely appreciated), at the end of a great dinner with friends. Coffee is not the only example. San Pellegrino sparkling water (Sanpellegrino S.p.A.) is another Italian tradition. Dating back to 1899, produced and bottled in San Pellegrino Terme near Bergamo, in the North-West region of Italy, it is now attracting an increased customer base thanks to wider distribution channels that make it available not only for restaurant consumption but for retail as well. With its motto “live in Italian”, San Pellegrino is more and more often on the tables of the American families who want to treat themselves to the luxury of the Italian spark.
3. Consumer Goods: Luxottica – Looking at the world through the lenses of Italy
Luxottica Group S.p.A., Italian leader in eyewear production and distribution (with a presence in over 150 countries in the world, 18 distributions centres, 12 production plants and more than 7000 retail stores), has made the U.S. one of its primary global markets hubs. Luxottica, founded in Agordo, Italy, in 1961 by the ingenious Leonardo Del Vecchio – who still holds the position of Chairman of the group – in a little over 50 years has been able to rapidly escalate to the role of main eyewear manufacturer, growing a strong portfolio of brands (Ray-Ban, Oakley, …), and leading in the U.S. by partnering, among others, with retailers such as Sunglasses Hut and LensCrafters. These well established retailers are also continuing their expansion into the domestic market, consolidating an already strong presence and estimating an increase in sales in the years ahead. The story of Luxottica is a very interesting one, as the brand in itself represents the “American Dream” rooted in Italian soil: it started as small business and went on to become an industry leader and source of inspiration.
4. Luxury Brands: Armani, Gucci, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Fendi and many more
Made in Italy is not only synonym with the Country’s excellent food, accuracy and attention to details of its craftsmanship, but it also embodies luxury. It seems safe to say that about a third of the luxury brands across the world may be speaking Italian. Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman are just few of the high-end retail stores that have made themselves a hub for Giorgio Armani, Prada, Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo among others. Italy is the non-plus ultra of fashion, poise, elegance and refined taste. Moreover, recent studies have shown how luxury brands are also preferred by Americans for gift-giving (which has led to a remarkable increase in e-commerce transactions), based on the quality of the products, the design and the overall appeal. Wear Italian, eat Italian and drink Italian, but also gift Italian as a sign of the times.
5. Catering Industry: Italian restaurants and much more
As the healthy living-healthy eating wave is spreading across the States, food and ‘eating out’ have acquired a whole new importance and with it came a renewed attention to the Italian cuisine. The Italian catering business in the U.S. is booming, with about 16,000 establishments throughout the Country. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, but also Seattle, Portland, San Diego and Chicago attract restaurateurs that are turning the dining experience into a holistic one, thanks also to the increased availability of Italian ingredients, as discussed earlier.
Nevertheless, it is common practice to blend the authentic Italian cuisine in order to satisfy the American taste. This is no news, as it often happens to every ethnic cuisine in a foreign market. Taking a different approach, Little Italys are integral parts to most of the largest American cities and their tradition of small deli shops, with prosciutto and salame hanging from the ceiling, along with a dedicated section for authentic imported Italian products (tortellini Giovanni Rana, Grana Padano and/or Parmigiano Reggiano, Mulino Bianco cookies ‘biscotti’, Mozzarelle di Bufala Campana) are a true breath of fresh air for the curious and hungry American Italophile.
6. Sports Industry: Soccer making its way alongside baseball and football.
Due perhaps to the increased American success in the latest World Cup tournaments, men’s soccer (along with an already well established women’s pro soccer) is becoming more and more popular in the US and available to American fans, as major cites have been investing in soccer facilities and pro-teams. AS Roma has recently invested in a new soccer team in Los Angeles, which will become part of the Major League Soccer season starting in 2018. Major broadcasting stations such as ESPN (ESPN2, ESPN3.com, ESPN International), Fox and Univision are also planning to provide increased soccer media coverage. We are not shocked therefore, upon entering a sports bar or eating establishment, to see, along with the ubiquitous football, baseball and hockey, soccer games being aired and followed with equal passion by cheering crowds. We could continue to share ways in which the Italian way is trending alongside with the American way, but we prefer to leave it to you to continue and explore it on your own.
As good as this is all appears, nevertheless, a first hand experience of the Bel Paese is absolutely priceless and totally special.
Live in America the Italian way, but then travel to Italy to explore and dive in the unique experience of a Country of millenary tradition and undeniable flair. What are you waiting for?
Living in the U.S. the Italian way… this is Elisa, lucky enough to have the best of both worlds: the Italian upbringing and education and the American open land of opportunities . Elisa returns home to Rovigo as much as she can (mandatory is Christmas with her family!) while enjoying her life in the U.S. as she continues to discover ways in which Italy made, and continues to make, an impact in America and in the world at all. She knows one day her name will make it to this list too!