Largo Consumo: Interview with marketing manager Pina Santucci.
– Largo Consumo: What’s the current situation of the dried fruit sector? How did 2014 end and what are the company’s expectations for the ongoing year? Was the general crisis felt or can you see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Luckily, the sector has seen increasing numbers compared to 2013 (+8%). Vincenzo Caputo Srl has also registered a significant increase in sales compared to the previous year. However, market turbulence and the rising cost of raw materials have led to a decline in consumption, thus causing most of the operators a decrease in sales volumes.
Because of this situation, companies made a great effort to find new customers and retain the same standards. Our company has distinguished itself by giving importance to the product quality because of which it stands out.
–Largo Consumo: What are the challenges and strengths of your company?
The greatest challenge we faced over the past years was the general tension in the raw materials markets, where unfortunately there hasn’t been any positive outlook for months. Uncertain information and a strong dollar contributed to a considerable reduction of margins.
As for our strengths, I would like to highlight the space that is still available for product innovations in our sector and the constant changes that quickly occur in consumption styles, as well as the many opportunities we can seize in the near future.
Fortunately, our end consumer is responsive and ready for experiential consumption, which is always different (from the away-from-home to the healthy sector). Our challenge is to convince retailers that we can create high quality products by constantly launching new ones.
Consequently, periodicity seems to gradually become a thing of the past.
–Largo Consumo: While dried fruit was initially eaten only on special occasions, its consumption is nowadays more frequent and unseasonal for health reasons. Do you agree with this point of view? Do you think that the same thing is happening to your company?
We definitely agree. Indeed, one of the marketing activities we’ve been carrying out with the group Nucis for years is to spread the idea that dried fruit is healthy. We’re aware of the fact that one product or company isn’t enough to influence the reference market. We need to spread a new vision and perception of the product. That’s why we joined the Nucis project with our competitors, because it’s supported by truthful and interesting scientific studies.
I truly believe that companies should control and interpret two consumption styles, namely the hedonic and the healthy ones. If they do so, they’ll be able to attract most consumers.
–Largo Consumo: Do you think that the change in eating habits and the introduction of dried fruit in many diets determine the evolution of the sector?
Like I said, scientific support is essential for changing habits: the aware consumer decides to buy dried fruit because they know it’s healthy. They shouldn’t be forced to go on a diet, but they should be given the opportunity to make a choice. Such choice doesn’t only concern eating habits, but also sport and free time.
However, there is still so much to do to fight against obesity (especially in children). And here I want to get back to the leitmotif of this Expo 2015: to feed the planet by avoiding waste, malnutrition and resource depletion, thus leading to the idea of a healthy and balanced diet for each individual and the planet itself.
–Largo Consumo: Do you believe that the sector is doing a good job in terms of marketing and communications? Or is the Italian consumer still misinformed? How much does your company invest in marketing and communications?
I do believe so. Companies are constantly investing in awareness activities, as well as promotional activities. We can say that nowadays such awareness has reached many people, therefore consumers are no longer misinformed. However, Italy falls behind compared to other countries because it’s not always ready to adapt to new technologies that would help spread the message more quickly.
We anticipate that we created an investment plan that will involve public relations, from brand identity to social campaigns. Everything will be put into practice starting from January 2016.
–Largo Consumo: What are the company’s latest news in terms of products and packaging in the near future? What will be the most important segments of dried fruit over the next years?
We prefer not to reveal our future plans concerning our product launch, but we can anticipate that there will be at least two new additions for the next campaign…
–Largo Consumo: Do you believe that eating between meals influences the consumption of dried fruit? Which elements can help the market take off?
Yes, the away-from-home consumption is really important: we went from happy hour to ready-to-use food and “controlled” snacks (which are healthy in small quantities). Nutrition safety and ease of use have become more and more important.
–Largo Consumo: Organic and ecological sustainability are too often abused words, but they’re also necessary for most consumers. Are they important in your sector too?
The number of consumers who are sensitive to ecological sustainability and organic products (renewable energy sources, biodegradable packaging, organic ingredients and crops) has not only increased, but it also wants companies to offer these products at more accessible prices. Indeed, high prices discourage purchase intentions.
From our point of view, we must invest in these fields in order to protect people and the environment. Therefore, this is one of the goals we want to pursue in the near future.
Marketing manager Pina Santucci VINCENZO CAPUTO SRL