SIGEP 2022 PREVIEW - FABRIZIO OSTI: Artisanl Gelato. The Key is information & innovation

Wednesday 15 September was the date for the SIGEP 2022 PREVIEW event - Global scenarios and future prospects for the sweet foodservice sector, a digital day focussing on the main innovations to come at the 2022 in-person edition of Sigep. It was a great  opportunity to take stock of the season that has just come to a close and to get a glimpse of the major sweet foodservice scenarios that we can expect to get both here in Italy and worldwide, in a series of contributions from illustrious research companies and the specialist media.

Particular emphasis is placed on the evolution of craft gelato in the post-pandemic period, i.e. on the various strategies that entrepreneurs will be able to adopt, on possible changes to ingredients and numerous other matters affecting the future of the sector.

The talk, moderated by Franco Cesare Puglisi, CEO of Editrade, explored the evolution of artisan gelato, highlighting new trends in sales and novel consumption habits, increasingly under the banner ofFabrizio Osti - Vice Presidente Unione Italiana Food - Gruppo Prodotti per Gelato sustainability.

When Fabrizio Osti, Vice President of Unione Italiana Food – Gelato Ingredients Chapter, was asked how gelato had had to evolve during the pandemic, especially from the point of view of ingredients, and what effects this change had had on businesses, he analysed the situation from two points of view.

Both issues considered during the analysis were already in a great state of flux long before the pandemic began in 2020 though it did highlight the need for the sector to press ahead in the direction it was already going in.

Two key requirements emerge from Fabrizio Osti's words on which attention needs to be focused: the need to communicate and the need to change how gelato is sold.

The first need, namely to communicate, is embodied in a section from the MINTEL report on short- and medium-term trends: “An increased focus on value will drive brands to become even more transparent and provide more detail about ingredients, processes and people, and all the factors that go into setting a price”.

This passage underlines the extent to which communicating about quality, in a broad sense rather than being restricted to the scope of the conference, must involve focussing on ingredients and be completely upfront and authentic. In the specific case of gelato, the end consumer expects a product made from simple, familiar ingredients, as if it were home-made, and as a result the concept of “clean label” gelato has become a necessity and no longer just an added value.

Another crucial communication issue has to do with social media, which have given today's consumers simple and immediate tools for comparison, so that they can start choosing even before they get tasting, on the basis of the information they either receive or do not receive.

Communication is therefore no longer only related to the 'point of sale', but also through social media and websites, which have become a regular tool even for less experienced consumers. Communication has also broadened its range of action by taking an all-round look at all of the issues facing a sector such as artisan gelato.

Word of mouth, which has always been powerful, has been amplified exponentially by social media, and anyone who fails to provide information, i.e. by not communicating in a transparent manner, looks as if they lack openness and therefore seem as if they make a poor quality product.

The main change since the pandemic has come in terms of information; whereas beforehand the gelato-maker would chat to customers about the ingredients, or else a list might be available at the point of sale, now that information has to be accessible to all and in writing. What gelato entrepreneurs now need to do is to look at their recipes in reverse, starting with the label, and get rid of anything that is not seen as a symbol of quality in this particular historical period.

The second change we need to work on is related to the way we sell gelato, as consumer attitudes are also going to be changing. According to EUROMONITOR, consumers “will be using digital tools to stay connected at home and to facilitate safer procedures at physical points of sale (Phygital Reality); they will be pushing for contactless services, exceptional quality and safety standards, and products that improve hygiene and provide greater safety guarantees (Safety Obsessed)”.

In recent years, home delivery has become one of consumers’ favourite ways of enjoying food, and during the pandemic it affected the gelato sector in an innovative way. This new way of selling food, which includes both reservations and deliveries, should be seen as an exciting opportunity for gelato makers and become a new established business practice. This is confirmed by post-pandemic data indicating a fall in “in-person” socialising and a preference for virtual socialising; gelato's role as a socialising factor will therefore have to evolve and take into account the fact that the trend is heading towards home consumption, with shop location becoming less crucial given the availability of fast and inexpensive delivery systems.

From an analysis of these two issues, it is clear that the artisan gelato market, in the medium term, will have to undergo a delicate change, starting with the product itself and hence its recipes and ingredients. Anyone who had already started this process before the pandemic – again, we mention the concept of the clean label – will now have a head start over their competitors.

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