Italy’s top exports and how they are boosting the economy

italy's top export pasta made in italy

We have often discussed the special and unique allure that makes Made in Italy goods attractive to international audiences. Italy is, in fact, the only case of a national brand standing on its own as a worldwide symbol of trustworthy quality, rather than a merely descriptive aspect of a product’s identity. Through the years, Italy’s exports across a variety of industries have been a driving force in the Country’s economy. This is still true, even at a time when rising manufacturing powers such as India and China are periodically rumoured to have put Italian manufacturers out of business. This, however, was repeatedly proved not to be the case: customers are often particular about their favourite Made in Italy products and they will gladly wait longer and pay more for goods that are manufactured not just in Italy, but in specific Italian regions. This applies mostly to consumer products such as food, design and fashion. Other Italian exports, such as mechanical parts and construction materials, thrive on quality alone and are still very much in demand on most markets. While the European Union is naturally the first and largest market for Italian brands, they are also extremely successful in North and South America, Asia (particularly China) and Africa.

Top Italian exports

According to a 2017 study, 844 Italian products rank in the top 3 in their industrial cluster for export revenue. Unsurprising, food brands are among the most popular – with pasta being the most successful Italian food product abroad, closely followed by cheese – particularly Grana Padano, Mozzarella and Gorgonzola – and cured meats – such as San Daniele and Parma ham. As we have often remarked, however, it is not all about food: ceramic tiles were one of Italy’s top exports in 2017. Particularly popular on the German market, Italian tiles are a testimony to the Country’s ability to uphold its traditions and craftsmanship, while innovating industrial processes to meet the increasing demands of international markets. Fashion – particularly footwear – is another pillar of Italian economy, which was worth over 3.5 billion Euro in 2016 alone.

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Growing markets

This outstanding success comes after years of pessimistic predictions, according to which the whole Made in Italy concept was simply becoming unfashionable and less interesting to international markets. This, paired with the constant worry over Italy’s political instability, briefly discouraged international investors. But it failed to deter Italian enterprises, which simply went on to prove the predictions wrong. This renewed success can be ascribed partly to the rising of the middle classes in developing economies – or economies that have long lacked a “middle class” – such as China, Brazil, Egypt, Chile and Turkey. This is certainly the case where consumer goods are concerned, whereas other industrial clusters, such as mechanical engineering, have simply never faltered.

Solving ancient problems

In recent years, Italy has also taken steps to make life easier for entrepreneurs and investors, cutting some of its famously omnipresent red tape, increasing infrastructure, lowering the cost of labour and investing in projects destined to attract foreign capital and promote startups (particularly in certain regions of the Country). As a result, Made in Italy products are turning into an increasingly international business, in that Italian enterprises are often owned or managed by international teams or benefit from international investments. Within the context of our globalised economy, providing a result-oriented approach is a refreshing practice that investors look on favourably. This has made Italian companies attractive to foreign capital.

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She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

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