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Italian tradition meets modernity

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Fratelli Beretta has more PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) certified products than any other company in the sector. To put this into perspective, there are approximately 1,000 PDO and PGI certified food products in Europe, of which 250 are made in Italy. Of these, 40 are cured meat products, and 20 of those are produced by Fratelli Beretta – an impressive achievement.

“PDO and PGI certification is particularly important for the export market,” explains Marketing Director Enrico Farina. “Italy itself has so many regional specialties. Many of them are really only known in their area of origin, so the certification is less important. However, in other countries there is huge interest in Italian PDO and PGI products.”

The family-owned company, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2012, currently exports around one third of its produce, a large percentage of which goes to the UK, where Fratelli Beretta has a long-standing partnership with the Tesco supermarket chain. Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia and Luxembourg are also key markets, and more recently, the company has expanded its horizons to South America and Brazil.

Headquartered in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the firm has 18 production locations in Italy. “The unusually high number of production units around Italy is necessary for the regional specialties because Parma ham, for example, may only be produced in Parma,” Mr. Farina points out. “Food and hygiene standards around the world vary too. For example, the US will only import goods with a very long minimum maturity date. For this reason we have established two production plants in the US which operate to US food industry standards, and we have joint ventures in China for the same reason.”

The company has a wide portfolio of cured meat products which are sold under eight different brand names. Beretta is a well-known historic brand within Italy, while Wuber is the trademark of the company’s sausage products. At the heart of the product range are cut meats which are packaged for self-service in supermarkets.

The best sellers in the export market are Parma and San Daniele hams. While the PDO and PGI certifications are a significant selling point for Fratelli Beretta’s products, they are certainly not the only factor that sets the company apart from its competitors.

“The fact that we have so many production units makes us extremely flexible when it comes to meeting customer requirements,” notes Mr. Farina. “We can personalize products in accordance with their needs. We supply for private labels, although our focus remains on our own brands. We are also constantly developing new products or new ways of presenting our goods.”

Fratelli Beretta is well known for its mini-salami, which was introduced at the end of the 1990s. The company was also the first on the market with ham cubes, which eliminate much of the preparation work involved in dishes such as Spaghetti Carbonara.

More recently, it has started to offer top-quality cured meat in a sliced, pre-packaged format. The focus on high-quality meat also extends to another innovation, the Wuber-branded mini-sausage. “In Italy, this was traditionally a cheap product made from lower-quality ingredients,” admits the Marketing Director. “We make our mini-sausages from the best raw materials to a recipe developed by our head butcher. Our goal with this range of pre-packed, high-quality goods is to regain consumer trust in cured meat products, following the suggestion from the World Health Organization. We launched the range earlier this year, and early feedback is very positive.”

Another factor which distinguishes companies such as Fratelli Beretta from the competition is its work in animal welfare. “We have been focusing on this theme for over ten years,” continues Mr. Farina. “Not many companies do this yet, but customers are increasingly demanding it. The first was Tesco, but it is now also a hot topic in Switzerland and Scandinavia. They are beginning to demand more products made from ethically reared animals. Our goal for the next ten years is to dramatically increase the number of such products in our portfolio.”

Besides large supermarket chains, Fratelli Beretta also supplies smaller specialist stores and horeca establishments. With an annual turnover of some 755 million EUR and 1,400 employees in Italy alone, the company has experienced strong growth over the past 20 years. Although the Italian market averages a steady 1.5% growth per year, the export market has boomed, achieving an annual increase of 10%.

“The expansion of our export market is a critical element of our strategy, and our goal is to achieve a 50:50 split between our Italian and export activities,” reveals Mr. Farina. “It is relatively easy to export across Europe. Despite the fact that food preparation and hygiene standards vary around the world, we are currently present in 50 countries. The other crucial aspect of our strategy is the growth of our pre-packed cured meat goods. They are simple in that you can deliver them without having to explain how to handle them. The PDO and PGI certifications have opened many export markets for us, and we want to increase the quota of our products which bear this quality mark.”

While the company is steeped in tradition, its production processes are state-of-the-art, which is necessary to achieve the high standards demanded not just by national and international regulations, but also by customers. “Some of our clients, such as Tesco and Migros, undertake audits,” adds Mr. Farina. “All our production plants are of the highest standard. We were the first producer in Italy, and one of the first in Europe, to have a cleanroom. Besides the plant itself, our staff are also highly competent. For several years we have been running our Beretta Academy, where our staff, including some of those in the US and China, have undergone a comprehensive programme of training.”

Fratelli Beretta ranks among the top three cured meat producers in Italy and is considered one of the most important players in the broader European market. Besides the obvious advantage of PDO and PGI certifications, customers also value the unusually high quality of the company’s pre-packaged products, as well as the breadth of its portfolio and its flexibility in meeting customers’ special requirements. Nevertheless, marketing still plays an important role.

“Since the WHO announcement in 2015, we have had to work hard to calm consumers’ fears,” admits Mr. Farina. “It is not easy to communicate product quality and the difference between goods on the market. We try to convey the message that the best route to good health is a varied diet with good nutrition, and that high-quality cured meats are an important part of such a regime.”

Mr. Farina joined Fratelli Beretta 17 years ago, and today his motivation remains as high as ever. “I love the idea that the cured meat sector is one of the few markets in which some of the most important companies are still in Italian hands,” he says. “In most industries – engineering, automotive, as well as the food sector – Italian companies have been taken over by the large multinationals, which are only interested in profit. This is not the case with Fratelli Beretta. Our motivations are extremely diverse. Of course we want to make money, but we are also concerned about animal welfare and protecting the environment. We want to continue to produce our whole portfolio without compromise to the same high quality standards.”

The fact that, after 200 years, Fratelli Beretta is still owned by the original founding family and therefore firmly in Italian hands is a key contributor to its continuing success. “The next generation are ready and waiting to join the company,” reveals Mr. Farina. “That is a very big advantage, particularly in Italy, where an Italian family-owned company elicits strong emotions. It is a sign of continuity and a future firmly embedded in Italy. People see it as a guarantee that their Italian traditions will be firmly upheld.”

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