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An empire with the scent of salmon
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - Fish represents a complicated market in Italy. Italian coastal resources are thinning out: Mediterranean resources are subject to intensive exploitation, and fish has become a luxury product - or almost luxury - above all for smoked and preserved fish such as salmon and shrimps. It is therefore problematic to set up a firm in a sector such as this. Unless facing up to this task is a young and determined woman. This is the history of the entrepreneurial success of Michela Vittoria Brambilla, 36 years of age, with the figure of a fashion model and a background divided equally between philosophy studies and journalistic experience, and then in her father's firm, among carbon steel rods, where she held the post of Managing Director. Over a period of only ten years, she has been able to transform a small firm in the food distribution sector on the edge of bankruptcy into a leading firm in Italy, Sal Seafood, with sales of almost 50 million euro and a quota on the Italian market which for certain products exceeds 90 percent.
Mrs. Brambilla, how does one go from being a television journalist to becoming a business leader in the food sector?
"I began almost by chance. My father had bought his way into an important Milan's distribution company handling luxury food products. The department dedicated to the marketing of semi-preserved fish products at this firm was going very badly. It was the year 1994, and my father asked me to take a look at the firm's accounts to judge whether it was better to let things drop or if there was some hope. I gave it a go, and results followed shortly".
What was your chosen strategy to save that small firm? "
"When you do not know a firm, when you approach it from the outside, perhaps you have a better ability to identify development opportunities, you can see the gaps in the market more easily. The basic idea on which I placed my entire bet was this: to transform a niche sector - a very seasonal sector such as that for smoked salmon and other fish products, put on the table above all during end-of-the-year festivities - into a widely distributed product. Before that, salmon and shrimps were thought of as a luxury product, reserved for just a few people and for rare occasions. Today we have turned it into a product to be eaten the whole year round, and aimed for a vastly wider public"
But salmon has never been a popular product.
"It was not a popular product in Italy, but it has become so, or almost. Salmon does not cost more than ham or cheese. However, before it was considered to be a product just for the few, and importers sold it at very high prices, including earning profits of 200-300 percent. We have changed strategy: better to earn less, but to sell more. And this idea has been a winner".
Did you take a bet on changing consumer tastes?
"Times are ended when you could start up a firm by considering consumers simply as being the end of a chain of values. Today consumers have ideas, tastes, opinions. Consumers use their reasoning powers; they have to be respected, not exploited. But the first years were very difficult. Before seeing the fruits of this work we really worked hard. It was not easy to build up a network of more than twenty firms, all displaced in Northern Europe. We always received a very strong contribution from them, guaranteeing the supply and the first processing of the product. Then it became necessary to personalise the products completed by individual operators in the large distribution chain, creating specific brands and selecting products according to the needs of each one. It was a difficult job, and I am very proud of it".
"The bet will be to succeed in repeating this venture also in the fresh fish sector, with new industries, keeping strictly to a guarantee on quality".
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