Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
This special issue of the British Food Journal includes the contributions of a group of management researchers working in different Italian universities.
Despite the geographical scatter of their head offices, they share a scientific interest in a particular category of food productions, whose increasing economic importance is under everybody’s eyes: the typical products.
What is a typical food product? Which are the interesting cues about it? What does it express in terms of commercial values? Which are the related significant questions in terms of management? These are few questions the cases in this issue try to answer.
The complex basic assumption, shared by all published works, is the following:
Post-industrial and post-modern economies contrive their production and consumption models more and more similarly to a mosaic: along with the homogenization spurred by globalization new and variegated local realities are successfully overbearing. The global/local dichotomy renders productions and purchase/consumption behaviors complex businesses. While they seemed historically surpassed, they were only latent or simply restricted to invisible niche markets. The typical products’ category stands out in this scenario probably representing the most important example of “food glocalization”.
The cases assembled herewith, each with their own distinctive characteristics; show a strictly descriptive approach, based on the critical analysis of relevant research. The working method used provides an analysis focused on a business experience fulfilling the following conditions:
relevance – able to disclose one or more significant aspects of the question related to typical products;
contemporaneity – related to near at hand reality in order to give the cue for making remarks on the future development of the business; and
awareness – related to a well-known and successful product category or business.
The results of this work show a significant outline of Italian typical productions representative of geographical realities very different from each other:
north of Italy, with the Pandoro, in the cake category;
center of Italy, with the Aceto Balsamico di Modena and the Brunello di Montalcino; and
south of Italy, with the Mozzarella di Buffalo.
Furthermore, this issue includes two contributions that we could define as “transversal” compared to the others. The analysis of the recent evolution of the typical foods Italian market has shown that third actors – outside the production system – had played a non-marginal role in spurring the development of sensitivities toward the consumption of these products, and of food in general, i.e.:
The cultural association, represented by the case of Slow Food, that, from a strictly cultural subject, has changed into an extraordinary business propeller in few years.
The field of electronic commerce that finds in Esperya.com one of the few successful cases of e-commerce in Italy. It is also representative of a business model able to de-contextualize the character of typicality extending it from the mere product to related (restoration) and non-related business areas (oeno-gastronomic tourism).
Essentially, the scenario of the typical foods traced by the articles of this issue seems to be very rich and complex:
the business is the link between the local business (production) and its worldwide extent (consumption);
it can occupy both market niches (e.g. Aceto Balsamico) as well as configuring mass markets (e.g. Pandoro di Verona);
it creates new consumption models (e.g. Buffalo Mozzarella) as well as re-vitalizing new ones, once destined to decline (e.g. wine);
it characterizes geographical areas, turning them into real production districts (e.g. Capua, near Naples, for Buffalo Mozzarella) as well as defining the country’s image (e.g. pasta); and
finally, it provides continued existence for small and minor enterprises as well as diversification areas for major entrepreneurial realities.
In conclusion, we ought not to underestimate the overall risk associated with the counterfeit phenomenon that is constantly increasing within the typical food system.
Claudio Vignali and Alberto Mattiacci
Note1. Italy can be considered as a whole from only the political point of view owing to the huge variety in its social and economic aspects. Thus, any analyst is used to focusing separately on the three mentioned clusters in order to be able to work on a more representative basis than the aggregate one.