Biodiversity and tradition: why the organic food industry is booming in Italy

organic food industry italy vegetables

We have written on multiple occasions of the ways in which the food industry has worked as a boost for the Italian economy, enhancing the Country’s international reputation and significantly adding to its exports. This has obviously much to do with Italy’s world-renown culinary tradition, as well as with the unique characteristic of geographic and climatic features, that make it easy to source locally a wide range of ingredients that most Countries have to import. As a natural consequence of the need to protect such assets, the organic food industry has been flourishing in recent years , showing an increased awareness of the importance of our natural resources and of the need to keep them safe and uncontaminated. International companies are aware of this positive trend, which will likely lead to investments in this growing economic sector. If you are interested in starting or expanding your organic food retail or production company, Italy is the place to be.

The organic market grows

organic food grapesThe recent economic recession has impacted many industrial sectors, including the food industry. The organic food industry, on the other hand, has been growing steadily throughout the economic crisis, registering an impressive +8,8% in profits in 2013, a year which is considered to be the peak of the Country’s economic recession. It has to be noted at this point that Italy has the largest number of organic food producers and retailers and the largest portion of agricultural land in Europe. Almost 50.000 companies operate in this industry, making up almost a third of the whole sector in Europe, drawing resources from nearly 2,5 million acres of land. The whole market is currently estimated to be worth about 3 billion Euro, but the forecasts for the coming years show a raising trend that doesn’t seem destined to stop anytime soon.

Health scares and awareness: to the root of the organic boom

organic food applesWhy is the organic food industry booming? Many have attempted explanations, but the complexity of the issue and the myriad of local and subcultural differences make it hard to reduce this phenomenon to a neat set of causes and effects. The global awareness with regard to environmental issues in general and to the impact they have on our health. Although there is often a fine line between the general public’s understanding of certain issues (such as the harming effects of pesticides on crops and antibiotics or bleaching on meat) and health scares that lead consumers to impulsive and emotional purchasing behaviours, the overall increase in environmental awareness can be said to be a force for good in western societies. Whether it is on the basis of health concerns or ethical ones, an increasing number of consumers have been choosing alternative dietary styles , ranging from the various shades of veganism and vegetarianism to omnivore diets that exclusively include or at least favour organic products (often referred to as flexitarians). As a result, the organic food industry is booming on a global level. In Italy, the associated narrative is often that of a reclaiming of the traditional crops and growing techniques that formed the basis for Italy’s reputation as worldwide food icon.

Diversity and opportunity

organic food berriesOne of the acknowledged advantages of organic agriculture and food production is that it preserves biodiversity , favouring the enhancement of natural defences against parasites and the reintroduction of ancient varieties and breeds that are usually not present in mass food production. The wise marketers among you will have already spotted the niche here: organic food is not only about health, it is about taste. There is a long-growing trend of general dissatisfaction with the gastronomic implications of globalisation. National diversities are to be respected, while at the same time maintaining the possibility of accessing virtually every national tradition from everywhere else in the world, thanks to international retailers and e-commerce sales. All of these conditions make it particularly profitable to consider starting an organic-food related enterprise in Italy , particularly in the light of the recent reforms that favour international investments in the Country.

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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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