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“MADE IN ITALY” SOFT DRINKS, A TRADITIONAL TRADE BROUGHT UP TO DATE
The first Italian soft drinks were offered to consumers in the late 19th and early 20th century, but only on a local and regional level. Production remained a local craft right up until the 1920’s and 30’s, when the business started to be transformed into a real industry. However, a real production process only began to be established after the second World War, when the number of soft and sparkling drinks increased considerably, in an ever increasing range of flavours, in parallel with the country’s economic and social transformations. As brands became more well known and popular, production plants, spread out over the main Italian regions, also multiplied.
This sector, which is represented by Assobibe , now produces 2.9 billion litres of drinks each year, and has a turnover of 1.7 billion Euros. The industry provides more than 5,000 jobs directly involved in production, and indirectly provides work for nearly 22,000 people. The overall value of goods, of approximately 6.5 billion Euros, is reasonably stable: in Italy almost 5 billion litres of soft drinks are consumed each year. The range has gradually increased to meet consumers’ needs, and now includes drinks which are sparkling, still, flavoured, or sweetened, based on fruit juices, with added vitamins or minerals, and energising or sport drinks.
Whilst being careful not to abandon traditionally popular drinks such as “gazzose” (lemonade), “spume”, chinotto, coca-cola, orangeade and citronade, the industry has gradually moved towards products combining imagination and attention to ever more quality seeking consumers. The range of drink has never been so wide: different flavours, different degrees of sweetness, diet drinks, with or without caffeine, based on tea and/or relaxing herbal teas, enriched with vitamins and minerals…all of which are available in different formats and with a wide range of flavours in order to encourage easier and more frequent hydration.
Together with a growing awareness of the importance of keeping hydration levels high, ever greater attention is paid to the calories gained from sweet drinks. This problem has been tackled some time ago by the soft drinks industry: “light” drinks were first introduced on the Italian market more than 25 years ago. The industry’s aim is to make low calorie soft drinks (sugar-free or low sugar) an ever more frequent choice as part of a balanced diet. Furthermore, in line with international indications, Italian manufacturers have decided not to promote direct marketing projects aimed at children under the age of 12, and at the same time to eliminate sparkling and high sugar drinks from drinks machines in schools.
Another aspect in which Assobibe is playing a prime role is that of the sector’s technical, productive and economic innovation, with the principal aim of improving product quality as specified by the sector’s regulations, but also in the interests of the consumer. Even the packaging used by manufacturers has seen innovations to facilitate transportation, storage and presentation of ever improving products.