Italy eyes the US beverage market for health-conscious, eco customers

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Italian Way considers the US a ‘mature and conscious’ market for Italian beverage exports.
The Italian Way considers the US a ‘mature and conscious’ market for Italian beverage exports.

Related tags: Italy, plant based, Non-Dairy, Water, Organic, Coffee

American consumers are increasingly looking for products with a focus on simple, high-quality ingredients and sustainability. And a group of Italian companies believe their products are ready to meet these demands: with their drinks on show at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this year.

The Italian Way - Food & Beverage Excellence (TIW) is the agri-food promotion project that exhibited at Fancy Food in San Francisco: showcasing beverage brands The Bridge, Smeraldina and Caffè Gioia.

The brands’ plant-based drinks, organic coffee and artesian spring water introduced Italy’s agri-food culture at the US tradeshow. They all focus on high quality ingredients, sustainable packaging and organic sourcing.

TIW is targeting the US because of its customer potential. In 2018 the US organic food market reached $47.9bn, with a growth of 5.9% during 2017. American consumers are increasingly looking for “products made with simple, high-quality ingredients by companies with a focus on sustainability.”

For Italian producers, the US is a ‘mature and conscious’ market, as Italian exports have doubled over the past 10 years. The US is the number one destination for Italian exports outside the EU.

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Plant-based authenticity

The Bridge is a family company that originated in a small village in northern Italy in 1994. It primarily manufactures plant milk alternatives with bases like almond, rice, coconut, oats, quinoa and soya.

Eva Pfeffer, director of sales and marketing at The Bridge, told BeverageDaily that the brand started out making rice drinks because rice naturally sweetens a beverage without needing to add sugar. It sources quality spring water directly from mountains, which it considers critical because these types of beverages can be made up of 80% water.

Most of the milk alternatives are made with just a few ingredients, like rice, water, oil and salt. Pfeffer said many of their competitors add preservatives, sugar and other chemical ingredients that The Bridge avoids. It wants its short ingredients lists to set them apart.

At Fancy Food, The Bridge showcased the latest Veggy Cafe drinks, a single serve version of a cafe latte with a rice and almond base. It’s packaged in recyclable Tetra Pak cartons.

The Bridge is a green energy company, and operates only using renewable energy. One of its aims at the Fancy Food Show was to make connections with private label partners in the US; it already started a partnership with Better Than Milk in December.

The Bridge has plans to enter new product categories this year, like non-dairy yogurt. Pfeffer believes it is important to diversify their offerings and communicate as frequently as possible that they are an authentic, Italian family company.

Many of their category competitors have been bought out by larger companies; but The Bridge is attempting to leverage a ‘marketing 3.0’ concept that has consumers making ethical shopping choices and connecting humanity in commerce.

Caffe Gioia

Caffe Gioia exhibited its 100% Arabica organic coffee range at Fancy Food. The bags, pods and capsules of coffee are sourced from Peru without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

It says the five Italian companies at The Italian Way project are united by a commitment to quality and innovation.

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Island spring water

According to TIW research, 67% of Americans to consider it ‘very important’ that a product is made in Italy, and 64% are willing to pay more for genuine products.

Smeraldina is an artesian water brand that sources spring water from the mountains of Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It has one of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world - often attributed to the lifestyle and environment.

The water is sourced from 1,000 feet below granite rock, which naturally filters the water. Madeline Fiore at Smeraldina told BeverageDaily that the company positions the water as a health and wellness product because it has a good balance of functional minerals.

The drink is offered in both still and sparkling in different pack sizes and formats. The single serve Tetra Pak was also on display at Fancy Food, which is relaunching with an American version of the label.

Smeraldina is looking to reach the specialty market in the US alongside similar premium waters. It usually operates in a niche market within fine dining, hotels, etc. But Fiore believes cartons are an important part of this, and making sure that the packaging is 100% recyclable in new markets.

TIW said that 83% of US consumers believe non-plastic packaging is more environmentally friendly, and 31% said they are ‘very concerned’ about the environmental impact of plastic packaging.

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