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Italy leads global home-made ice cream market thanks to basic ingredients
Italy’s leadership in the home-made ice-cream market – in terms of finished product manufacturers as well as processing machinery producers – is well recognised. There is however another niche in this sector in which Italian manufacturers have been able to rise to leadership levels: the production of ice-cream ingredients and bases. This is a highly specialized sector: there are few large players who are not represented by a single trade association who could potentially collect reliable statistics to help draw a picture of the sector.
The only set of data which gives an indication – source: Aidi, Italian Confectioners’ Association – is the export trend for cocoa-based products, which includes products such as chocolate frostings, industrial-use cocoa powder, surrogate frostings and cocoa butter. In 2006 (latest available statistics from Aidi based on data from the Italian national statistics office) the value of the sector’s exports increased by 15% (to 408,1 million euros) and also increased by 11,5% in volume (to 101.656 tons).
In the Italian confectionery ingredients and ice-cream bases sector, the most recognised brand is probably Fabbri , created over a century ago in the province of Ferrara (Emilia-Romagna) and currently based in Bologna. The company, a leader in this niche sector, holds a 95% share in the candied cherry market and a 70% share in the liquored fruit market. Fabbri produces the famous ‘amarena’ black cherry juice (which can be used to garnish ice-cream, sorbets and for other ice-cream creations), ice-cream bases, supplements and emulsifying agents, ingredients for chocolate ice-cream, special pastes (fruit purees and creams), egg-based products, ingredients for ‘soft’ ice-cream, multi-flavoured ice-cream products, toppings and decorations, powdered bases, ‘granita’ (water-ice) ingredients, and liquored fruit specialities. The group employs approximately 250 people worldwide, it exports to over 70 markets and has a total turnover of about 55 million euros.
Pregel , a company from Reggio Emilia, is among the major operators in the sector. Created about 40 years ago, it is one of the major global players in the home-made ice-cream sector, it has developed strong international operations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and is headquartered in the United States: 60% of the company’s profits (approximately 40 million euros in 2005, latest available figures) comes from abroad. Pregel’s international retailers cover a vast area, from Oceania (Australia) to South America (Argentina and Venezuela), to Europe (Belgium, Holland, Spain and Croatia). Pregel exports to over 30 European states, to the main Middle-Eastern countries, to the entire American continent (from Canada to Argentina), to the Maghreb countries and in seven more south-central African states, and in the Asia-Pacific area beyond India and China.
In Emilia-Romagna, the Italian birth-region of Fabbri and Pregel, there is also another important sector player: Mec3 .Created only 24 years ago, this Italian company has, in two decades, become one of the leading international manufacturers of home-made ice cream and confectionery ingredients and bases. The company employees over 100 people and its turnover nears 40 million euros – 80% of which comes from exports. Mec3 is present in over 70 markets in all continents, Germany being the main one. Mec3 is part of the Optima Group (Mec3 Gmbh, Teofa Kft, Allmond Sro, Mec3 Sa) and was added to the «Europe’s 500 Entrepreneurs for Growth» list, drawn up entirely by KPMG – a leading management and business certification consultancy - which includes the 500 most dynamic European enterprises. Mec3, one of the 43 Italian businesses who made the grade, was the only one representing the Italian ingredient manufacturing sector.
There is a fourth player from the Emilia-Romagna region in the ice-cream base sector, who has been able to export Italian excellence: Babbi from Bertinoro, in the province of Forlì. It is a greatly traditional (created in 1952) and lower-key enterprise, which registered profits of around 10 million euros in 2005 (20% from exports). This Italian SME was however able to access foreign markets not only with commercial but also with industrial initiatives. In Spain – an interesting market for the consumption of home-made ice-cream – it acquired la Gelarte Ispanica, subsequently renamed Babbi Helado italiano, specialised in ice-cream bases. Babbi, more widely recognized among the public for its confectionery products - including wafers – than for its ice-cream ingredients (a ‘professional’ product highly valued by other operators and which contributes to the tune of 70% to overall profits) has elected to diversify in Spain by creating a manufacturing business having entered the market with as a retailer.