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Italian market remains conservative when it comes to frozen vegetables.

Italian Market Remains Conservative When it Comes to Frozen Vegetables

The Italian market for frozen vegetables has changed little since frozen foods were earnestly introduced about 15 years ago--plain, partially cooked vegetables in economical packages, usually without any innovation in package design, continue to lead the market.

Indeed, neither blended vegetables, nor prepared vegetables, nor any other product innovations have made serious inroads. As for ethnic mixes, they are virtually excluded. Italians have shown very little interest in foreign cuisine. They continue to prepare their traditional meals at home. For them, the price and convenience of simple frozen vegetables makes them best sellers among all FF categories on the market.

A look at market figures confirms the dominance of tradition for Italian consumers. Peas, which are not easily available in produce markets, constitute about a third of frozen vegetable consumption here. According to the Italian Frozen Food Institute, peas accounted for 52,000 of the 166,000 tons consumed in 1987; spinach and miscellaneous vegetables accounted for about a fifth each, and frozen beans a bit less at 17,000.

"The one area where the market is changing is in sales of mixed raw vegetables for minestrone Italian-style vegetable soup," reported Mary Pastori, an analyst for the Institute. "Sales were 35,420 tons in 1987, up from 31,370 the previous year. It is an indication that convenience is beginning to sell."

Because Italy is a major producer of fruits and vegetables, local supply is almost always abundant. Such is an advantage to small, local frozen processors, who can count on low prices for raw materials and a reliable outlet with local distributors. This has made Italy's two largest frozen food companies, Italgel S.p.A. and Unilever-Findus, less interested in vegetables. Instead, they have concentrated on prepared foods and snacks that can be marketed on a national scale.

A few processors, however, are beginning to experiment with new product ideas. Societa Italiana Pollo Arena S.p.A., based in Verona, is best known (as its name indicates) for frozen chicken, which it sells nationwide. But recently it launched a line of frozen vegetables in one-kilogram economy packs to appeal to traditional large Italian families. The line includes one truly innovative item, however: a mix called Pepperonata, which includes red and green peppers, onions and garlic.

"Pepperonata is a popular dish which takes a long time to prepare," explained Sergio Rumpel, manager for the Arena FF line. "We expect that the convenience of having it pre-prepared should make our frozen Pepperonata a big seller."

A few smaller processors are also offering innovative products. Ortogel S.p.A., based in Catania, Sicily, is marketing 100% pure fruit juices in 180-gram plastic wrappers, for example. While the products are expensive compared to other frozen juices, the company is counting on the high quality of Sicilian oranges and grapefruits to make them more attractive to Italian consumers.
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Author:Rosenbaum, Andrew
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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