2017 was a record year for PDO production, which saw a total increase of 5,2% on the previous year. The over 3.65 million wheels of cheese (about 147,000 tons) produced in 2017 represent the highest peak in the age-old history of Parmigiano Reggiano. A 2.2 billion euro turnover for the protected designation of origin product, which is increasingly expanding abroad: an outlet for a constantly growing production that needs new market spaces. In the last three years, production rose from 3.3 million to 3.65 million wheels, a 10% increase. Parmigiano Reggiano is also enjoying a very good period as far as price are concerned. While in 2016 the cost per kg was 8.60 euro, in 2017 the average price stood at 9.81, a 14% increase (source: Borsa Comprensoriale Parma bulletins).
Italy accounts for 62% of the market, while the export share is 38% (+3.9% on the previous year). France is the largest export market (9800 tons), followed by Germany (9460 tons), United States (9075 tons), United Kingdom (6163 tons) and Canada (2380 tons). While exports to France, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom have significantly increased (by respectively 11.3%, 3.2%, 8.1%, and 6.6%), exports to the United States have slowed down (-9.3%) due to the euro/dollar rate and competition with similar products. On the other hand, exports to Canada have increased, thus confirming, thanks to the CETA agreements, the expected opportunities for development.
The press conference was an opportunity to present an overview of the sector, but also to discuss the actions the Consortium will undertake to guide its growth. The challenge is that of positioning the product in the market at a profitable price: a further growth in production is expected in 2018, bringing the number of wheels to over 3.7 million. In order to increase demand in Italy and abroad, the Consortium’s budget includes a 20-million euro investment in communication (12 in Italy and 8 abroad): 7 million more than in the previous year.
The strategy of the Consortium rests on four pillars: distinctiveness of the product, increase in exports, fight against counterfeits, and development of direct sales from dairy farms. The first, and most important one, concerns the distinctiveness of product: “3.5 million families are very loyal to Parmigiano Reggiano, 3.9 to Grana Padano, and 14 million families buy either without distinction. To increase sales, we have implemented brand repositioning actions, strengthening communication with the objective of conveying to consumers the benefits that make Parmigiano Reggiano PDO a unique cheese in the world. It is a product that stands out from the competition because of the selection of the best, all-natural products, the complete absence of preservatives and additives, and faithfulness to the same recipe for a thousand years” says Nicola Bertinelli, President of the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium.
The second pillar is that of exports: the Consortium has increased investments abroad both in marketing and in public relations, creating a network of press offices in target markets. Exports are one of the main ways of stimulating production: the Consortium has set itself the ambitious goal of growing by 2-3 percentage points a year and of reaching the target of 1.6 exported wheels by 2021.
The third one is the fight against counterfeiting, which in practical terms translates into greater transparency, to the benefit of all consumers. Since 2017, the Consortium has strengthened its monitoring programmes, which now cover 100% of grating companies and portioning labs, so as to guarantee to consumers the authenticity of the product.
Fourth and last, the Consortium supports and promotes direct sales. Dairies need to have greater and more unmediated access to the market, not just through farm shops, but also through online sales, and direct relationships with small supermarket chains and the HoReCa channel. The goal is to increase the share of direct sales up to a third of total production.
The interesting fact emerges from a consideration of the craftsmanship and distinctiveness of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO: in order to meet different market needs as many as 137 dairies out of 335 hold other certifications in addition to the PDO one, These certifications include Organic Parmigiano Reggiano, White Cow of Modena, Red Cow of Reggio, Brown Cow, as well as Mountain Product, Kosher, Halal, and the very long, so-called “meditation” maturation times Over 360,000 wheels with consumer prices steadily above average. The objective of the Consortium is to promote these new segments as well as direct sales from dairy farms: this is a market that is less affected by the general economic situation and yields returns for producers.