It is surprising that despite the domination of Italian cuisine in Europe, Italian exporters of food producers are having difficulty in entering into international markets. As a consequence between 2008 and 2014 over a fifth of small to medium size firms have gone into liquidation. What is more extraordinary is that prosecco producers who have overtaken champagne sales in Europe still do not have a coordinated marketing policy, in the way French Bordeaux wine does. This has made Italian food producers ripe for acquisition by Asian corporates. As a firm we have had some experience of the Chinese acquisitions in the Italy food market. Bright Food a Chinese large corporate acquired control of Weetabix in the UK and recently acquired Filippo Berio Olive Oil, Italy's largest olive oil producer. More deals are likely in the near future.
The smaller, often family-owned manufacturers that are the backbone of the Italian economy have been hit especially hard: between 2008 and the first half of 2014, a fifth of them went bankrupt or into administration, or were voluntarily wound up. One of the main reasons so many have gone to the wall is that they are too focused on the home market. Italian businesses of all sizes are much less likely to have export customers than German or Spanish ones, according to a recent study by SACE, Italy’s official export-credit agency (see chart). Italian cuisine is popular all over the world, but Italy’s countless small food producers get only a morsel of this huge global market: exports account for a smaller share of the Italian food industry’s output than in either France or Germany.