The huge success of the Italian artisan gelato supply chain has been based on combining tradition with innovation, creativity with technical expertise, and quality ingredients with state-of-the-art equipment. The role played by trade fairs and training schools, which over the years have helped thousands of would-be gelato makers, has also been key.
According to the SIGEP Observatory, as of 2017 Italy has 39,000 points of sale for artisanal gelato, 10,000 of which are specialist gelato parlours and about 29,000 are bars and pastry shops serving gelato either all year round or just in the warmer months. By far the largest market in the world.
But Italy is also a world leader for ingredients and semi-finished products for gelato, which, according to the SIGEP, in 2017, saw 45 companies generating total turnover of 1.3 billion euros (600 million of which was made up of semi-finished products for gelato, 60% of which went for export). There is a huge variety of such products, ranging from bases to fresh fruit concentrates and oilseed pastes (such as hazelnut or pistachio) and for decorations. An analysis by Coldiretti using Eurostat data (2017) showed that this supply chain has a huge impact on the agri-food sector in general, as it purchases about 220,000 tons of milk, 64,000 tons of sugars, 21,000 tons of fresh fruit and 29,000 tons of other raw materials, often top-quality smaller-scale Italian agricultural products such as pistachios from Bronte, hazelnuts from Piedmont, almonds from Sicily or lemons from Sorrento.
Finally, Italy is also a world leader in the manufacture of machinery and showcases for gelato parlours. It is an industrial system made up of 13 machinery companies that control almost 90% of the world market, with a turnover of 229 million euros, along with 11 showcase manufacturers turning over 252 million euros (SIGEP Study Centre 2017).
In addition, every gelato parlour that opens abroad, in a year, leads to exports for Italy of at least 100,000 euros in equipment, furnishings and machinery and 25,000 euros in products and ingredients.