In 2023, Italy achieved a notable feat in its agri-food export sector, surpassing 62 billion euro, marking a 6% rise from the previous year. This positions Italy prominently among the world's top agri-food exporters in terms of growth rate, alongside Germany, which saw a slightly higher growth rate of 6.2%. Meanwhile, other significant players like France and the United States witnessed declines in their export figures, with decreases of 3% and 12% respectively.

The surge in Italian exports was fueled by a range of product categories. Leading the pack were vegetable preserves, witnessing a remarkable 13% surge, closely followed by cheeses with a 12% increase. Fruits and vegetables also played a pivotal role in driving this trend, recording a notable 9% uptick. Additionally, cured meats experienced an 8% increase, while pasta showed a steady growth rate of +4%.

These findings are derived from a study undertaken by Nomisma, unveiled at the VIII Agrifood Monitor Forum, a collaborative effort with CRIF. The analysis of this data prompts consideration of market opportunities and emerging trends crucial for propelling further growth in the Italian agri-food industry. In the following paragraphs, we will delve into which countries have contributed to achieving this significant record, focusing on emerging markets and their specific demands.

Primary export markets fueling Italian agri-food growth

The European Union emerges as the primary catalyst for the growth of Italian agri-food exports, boasting a notable 9% upswing. Conversely, North America witnessed marginal growth (+0.1%), while Asia saw a slight downturn of 1.1%. Noteworthy contributions also came from Central and South America, showcasing a 9% increase, chiefly driven by Brazil's remarkable 22% surge.

Emerging markets: The Brazilian scenario

Brazil has emerged as a key target for Italian Food distributors. In 2023, out of a total import value exceeding 12 billion euros, 356 million euros were earmarked for Italian product imports. This places Italy as the eighth-largest provider of food and beverages to Brazil, trailing behind neighboring nations (such as Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay) and other major suppliers like Portugal, the United States, and China.

In the last five years, Brazilian imports of Italian goods have surged at an annual average rate of 10%, significantly outpacing the market average of 5.7%. Among the top Italian exports to Brazil in 2023 were apples (13%), pasta (12%), wine (10%), bakery products, and olive oil (both at 9%). Notably, Italy holds a leadership position in pasta and bakery exports, while in wine and olive oil, it ranks second only to Chile and Portugal..

The success of Italian exports in Brazil can be attributed to the esteemed reputation of Italian agri-food products among Brazilian consumers. With over 60% of Brazilian consumers regarding Italian products as superior in quality, Italy enjoys a significant competitive edge, which Italian food producers, importers and distributors can capitalize on to enhance their foothold in the Brazilian market.

Outlook and business opportunities

Brazil stands out as a highly attractive market for the food industry, being the world's tenth-largest economy in terms of GDP and the seventh-largest in population. This unique combination presents significant opportunities for food companies aiming to venture into new markets.

The success of Italian agri-food in Brazil is not limited to exported products. This trend is also supported by the presence of the fourth-largest Italian community abroad and by the constant flow of Brazilian tourists to Italy, factors that strengthen the cultural and commercial ties between the two countries.

The outlook for growth in the Brazilian market appears highly promising. As per a Nomisma survey, 27% of Brazilian consumers anticipate boosting their expenditure on Italian food items over the next three years, while 49% intend to maintain it at current levels.

To fully seize these opportunities, businesses must develop a detailed understanding of growing sectors, including consumption trends. With the right strategy and market knowledge, Italian cuisine can sustain its growth and solidify its foothold in emerging markets such as Brazil, thereby augmenting the image and reputation of Italian products even further.

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