The growth of the Italian food and beverage sector is mainly due to Italian food exports, for which the USA is one of the main markets, according to Ivano Vacondio, President of Italian F&B industries association Federalimentare.1
Despite ongoing restrictions and delays due to COVID-19, Italian exports continue to supply Americans and consumers around the globe with high-quality Italian ingredients, processed food, and alcohol. Italian food & beverage exports reached a value of 17329.9 million euros in the first half of 2020, a growth of 2.6% compared to the first half of 2019.2 In this article, we’re going to discuss the top 8 food and beverages made in Italy that are shipped around the world, from Italian sparkling wine to pistachios and olives. Get ready to taste your way around this beautiful part of the Mediterranean.
How Italian food & beverage exports drive Italian economy
Italian food exports play an important role in the manufacturing industry and are the third most valuable sector to the Italian economy. Italy is a Mediterranean country with a warm, consistent climate and rich fertile soils. It has an abundance of high-quality fruit and vegetables ready to export in bulk overseas.
Geographically, Italy is well placed. In the heart of Southern Europe, it has a population of over 60.36 million, and is a tourist hotspot. This means that people from far and wide develop a taste for Italian cuisine, wine and snacks. Culinary and economically advanced, its local dishes, rich in fresh ingredients, are highly praised for their health benefits. In fact, following a Mediterranean diet is considered best if you want to prevent the development of life-threatening diseases and lead a long and healthy life.
A member of the European Union, NATO, OECD, and WTO, Italy is now the third-largest economy in the Eurozone. Able to trade with Europe easily, as well as having a long-established relationship with the USA, it generates a vast amount of revenue through the manufacturing of goods. While exporting food is one of Italy’s major revenue streams, it also imports food too. Italian food imports reached 19.8 billion euros in 2018, represented mainly by Germany, Spain, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland. Italian consumers enjoy tasting food and drinks from around the world.3 But, in 2021, Italian exports surpassed food and beverage imports, perhaps due to the global pandemic, rising by 1.7% to a record high of 46.1 billion euros. It was the first time agriculture, and food exports outnumbered food and drinks being imported into the country.4 Italy is currently considered the 6th largest international food supplier in the world, behind Mexico, Canada, China, France, and Chile. Exports of high-quality ingredients and drinks from Italy totaled 1.05 billion euros in March 2019, a 4% increase from the previous year, according to data from the US Department of Commerce.5
8 top Italian food & beverages that export globally
Now let’s take a look at the top 8 Italian food and beverages that are exported worldwide due to popular demand.
1: Italian olive oil
As the second-largest olive oil exporter in the world, Italy exported 338 thousand tonnes of olive oil in 2019, valued at 1.4 million euros. From high-quality extra virgin olive oil to virgin olive oil ideal for cooking, Italians simply can’t cook without this liquid gold. Italian domestic production is not sufficient for that volume of exports, so that the country actually imported twice more than exported that same year.6 While the Mediterranean region, in general, has historically been a major producer and exporter of olive oils, it was not until 2000 that there became an increase in production to meet growing demand.
Coffee is an integral part of Italian culture. Rich and aromatic, coffee exported from Italy is considered the best in the world. 221 thousand tonnes of roasted Italian coffee are exported each year, making up 22% of the European market. Only Germany surpasses Italy when it comes to coffee and only by 1%. Italy tends to produce dark roasts, which allow low grades of green coffee in blends. This means Italian wholesalers can offer Italian roasted beans at a more competitive price overseas. However, with a rise of roasting and brewing techniques, consumers are now opting for cleaner and milder Arabicas over dark roasts.7
Pistachios are a traditional Italian crop, especially in the Sicily region (Bronte area) which accounts for approximately 90 percent of the total supply. Since 2004, the European Commission awarded pistachios from Bronte as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), distinguishing it from all other pistachio varieties worldwide. Pistachios exported from Italy constitute the largest Italian product in terms of value. They are mainly destined to the US, the United Arab Emirates, and China. Fantastic snack foods, pistachios are harvested from the Apennine mountain regions of Italy, such as Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna. Picked only once a year, they are processed and packaged in September, ready to be shipped worldwide.8
Italy is able to grow a variety of grapes, which can be turned into Italian wine and shipped around the world. In the period between January and March 2020, the region of Veneto ranked first with an export value of 542 million euros, followed by Tuscany with 246 million euros and Piedmont with 235 million euros. Italian beverage exports are extremely valued in the country and are one of the major wine exports in the European Union.9 Italy exports the majority of its wine production to the United States. In 2019, the value of wine exported from Italy to the U.S. was around 1.6 million euros. But, as the United Kingdom develops a taste for Italian sparkling wine, demand continues to grow, despite the impact of COVID-19 on Italian wine producers.10
Want to know more about exporting Italian wine? Read our article on 5 leading wine-exporting countries in the world: an overview.
The first quarter of 2021 has proved to be a success for Italian dairy products, much of it cheese. In contrast with last year, where there was an overall decline in exports from Italy, Italian cheese exports are steadily rising. In the first nine months of 2020, March alone shows greater performance than any previous month since January 2018.11 With a revenue of over six billion euros, the Italian cheese industry is one of the biggest in the European Union. Being the birthplace of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, the county has the authority to export high-quality dairy products.12
From linguine and ravioli to spaghetti and penne, Italy exports 2.5 billion euros of pasta worldwide. This is equal to almost 30% of the global pasta exports.13 Germany, France, United States and United Kingdom are the main destinations Italian pasta is shipped to. The fastest growing export markets for Italian pasta between 2018 and 2019 were the United States, Saudi Arabia and France. Historically pasta has been a popular dish, and the international demand for pasta is still rising. A kitchen cupboard essential, pasta dates back 4,000 years ago, and was eaten by Ancient Greek and Romans.14 Now pasta is most consumed in Italy, Tunisia, Venezuela, Greece and Chile.15
7: Processed vegetables
Italy is a thriving example of organic farming in Europe, but the country still has many obstacles to overcome. Agriculture here provides high-quality products and can be done on smaller plots than conventional methods. However, Italian farmers face higher costs for certification and lack access to some markets due to EU regulations about what products are allowed there. Despite this, processed food such as tinned tomatoes, tinned mushrooms, and tinned asparagus are all exported in bulk abroad. Processed vegetables also include high-quality condiments, mixed seasoning, and mustard, with around 82 thousand tons shipped from Italy. The U.S. imports 61 thousand tons of processed vegetables, condiments, and sauces directly from Italy.16
8: Fish & meat
Exports of Italian meat and fish products have been on the rise in recent years. The prices went from 6.97 euros to 7.58 euros per kilo over a year’s time and then jumped up again this year by 1%. Since 2016 at 1349.75 thousand euros, it has risen steadily before jumping by an additional 1.69 million euros last month alone during November of 2019. Fish products such as cuttlefish, squid, octopus, and tuna are shipped around the world to restaurants, supermarkets, and retailers directly from Italy.17 When it comes to meat, such as Italian ham, Prosciutto has been produced since the 16th century and is prized for its rich flavor and versatility. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked and can be both sweet or salt, depending on your preference. High in nutrition and in particular protein, Italian ham is a popular product to be exported abroad. In fact, exports continue to represent an increasingly important business opportunity for Italian companies specializing in prosciutto.18
If you’re thinking about exporting Italian food and drinks to wholesalers and retailers worldwide, read our article on 10 reasons to start selling in the B2B food export industry.
Regulations of exporting food & beverage from Italy
Since Italy is part of the European Union, wholesalers and suppliers must make sure it only exports high-quality goods that are manufactured and packaged according to EU rules and regulations. If we consider Italian olive oil for instance, there are strict food safety standards in place relating to pesticide residue and heavy metal content. Olive oil must meet specific composition requirements to qualify as olive oil. This means it must be acidic enough, have a certain chemical make-up, and of course, taste delicious. The product label is also a key element to inform the consumer of what the product is, how it has been manufactured and where it has been made.
EU countries are also subjected to food trade and packaging regulations in relation to product categories. To sell food and beverage in the EU, you must provide essential information to allow the end consumer to make an informed decision regarding their purchase. The product label must be easy to understand, accurate, not misleading, and inedible.
Mandatory information for processed snacks and prepacked foods includes: the name of the food, ingredient list including additives, allergen information, the quantity of certain ingredients, date marking, country of origin, name, and address of food business, net amount, and storage information, instructions for use, alcohol percentage and nutrition declaration for consumer convenience.19
- What are the export procedures for Italians?
The exporting procedures are similar to importing goods. Italian companies must have an export license for all the products they intend to ship overseas. Companies are also required to submit a declaration with all the information about the products being exported, such as quality production, product category, quantity of goods, and the price and value of the products.
- What should I export from Italy?
To discover the best food, drinks, and snacks to export, you should carry out in-depth research to uncover buyer trends. Alibaba.com provides sellers with industry reports to help them make more informed decisions when it comes to manufacturing and selling to international buyers. For more ideas, inspiration, and additional information on what Italian food to export, read our article on 12 best food products to wholesale online in 2021.
- How do I start a wholesale business online?
If you’re a small business looking to trade overseas, exporting goods in bulk might be a profitable business move. But suppose you don’t have years of experience trading internationally, or you’re completely new to the world of wholesaling online. In that case, you can read everything you need to know here: How to start a wholesale business for beginners.
Sell on Alibaba.com
Imagine the power of being able to connect with international buyers online directly. Alibaba.com gives Italian wholesalers and manufacturers access to one of the world’s most powerful B2B eCommerce platforms. Master professionalism and take advantage of the vast amount of seller tools designed to help Italian businesses promote, market, and sell their goods around the globe. With features like international trade management, supply chain control, warehouse inventory monitoring, and much more, selling on this user-friendly platform will give you a wide range of benefits. So, whether you have a vineyard in the outskirts of Rome, an olive grove in Florence or a cheese company in Bologna, start selling to customers worldwide by signing up to Alibaba.com.