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Fancy zucchini or zoodles?

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Riced cauliflower, carrot, and zucchini spirals, cauliflower or red beetroot pizza crust, broccoli based french fries – these days, vegetables come in the most exciting varieties. Long gone are the days of overcooked peas and carrots; against the backdrop that consumers have become more mindful in their food choices in terms of quality, nutrition and sustainability, everything today is about freshness and authentic flavours. Food companies such as Emilia Foods need to constantly adapt to ever-changing market trends if they want to retain their competitiveness. “We carefully observe and analyse the market and its trendsetters,” states CEO Ivan Manfredi. “This also includes keeping an eye on supermarket chains and potential product novelties. We then begin developing our own products – regardless of market demands. Based on market trend analysis we work out new recipes. Our aim is to operate ahead of the market and to stay up to date with innovation.”

Thanks to its strong focus on innovation, Emilia Foods has long become a trendsetter. The company was founded in 2013 by Ivan Manfredi. “Before establishing Emilia Foods, I used to run a food company together with a partner,” explains Mr. Manfredi. “We eventually split the business and I was desperate to start a new project with new products. Instead of offering deep-frozen products such as pizza, I was looking for something more modern, something healthier and trendier. Given this, we started concentrating on vegetables and cooperated with different suppliers. Vegetables have experienced a real boom over the last few years and literally exploded. Our great asset is that we are located in a region that is recognized for the most authentic artisanal food creations. Luckily, we saw the enormous potential and tried to make the most of it.”

In 2014, although the company was still young, Emilia Foods became a supplier of some of the most important U.S retailers – an important milestone that spurred its development. “Our products perfectly complement the range,” says Mr. Manfredi. “We are interested in solid partnerships with clients and at the beginning it is always difficult to convince them and to win their trust. Costco is another major partner. It is one of the largest chains in the world. Our winning product that opened many doors was riced cauliflower; it is still a flagship product and definitely contributed to our market success.”

Emilia Foods Srl
We invest a lot in research and development; this way we are able to develop trend-driven new products such as zucchini spirals. Ivan ManfrediCEO

Step by step, Emilia Foods developed and produced new products: vegetables with a certain cut such as zucchini spirals or zoodles, long strips of zucchini that resemble pasta but are a fresh and healthy alternative to spaghetti. “We have invested a lot in research and development and we have carefully selected suppliers,” points out Mr. Manfredi. “However, technologically, we have not yet reached our goal. The demand for zucchini spirals is great. However, we don’t have enough capacity to satisfy the increasing demand. Vegetables are seasonal products, and within a few months we need to manage all the different steps from planning to production which is quite a challenge.”

Today, Emilia Foods has 20 employees and generates annual sales of 14 million EUR; this year, the company expects a further increase to around 20 million EUR. All products are exported – 90% to the United States, the remainder to South Korea, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Australia. Thanks to state-of-the-art technologies and reliable logistics partners, products are shipped all around the world without any compromise in flavour. Emilia Foods primarily produces private labels – the product range includes authentic Italian classics such as gelato, pasta and pizza, but also encompasses more and more innovations such as riced cauliflower, zoodles, veggie fries, legume pasta and plant-based burgers. “Luckily, we can bank on a young team that is keen to capture the spirit of the time,” emphasises Mr. Manfredi. “Unlike big players, we do not need a lot of time to understand trends and to react. This flexibility and responsiveness is an important asset.”

Ivan Manfredi
Our aim is to operate ahead of the market and to capture the spirit of the time. Ivan ManfrediCEO

Quality is another company strength. Every ingredient is sourced from high-quality suppliers, each single production process is constantly monitored. “We are keen to further grow by maintaining our high quality standards,” sums up Mr. Manfredi. “We are thinking of a stronger presence in the United States, our most important foreign market. One of the biggest challenges we are currently facing is recruiting the right people; people with both experience and passion. However, we embrace challenges. The world changes at a rapid pace; we care about our environment and sustainable products. This mindset is very encouraging and helps all of us.”

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