Italian food in the world: ups and downs

European Union countries and USA confirmed as world best importer of Italian food. Pizza, sparkling wine, cheese and cold cuts are the top rated products. Concerns about Trump's import tariffs and traffic light labels

Germany once again confirmed itself as world market leader in 2016 as importer of Italian food and agricultural products, with sales of 4.64 billion euro, a 2.5% increase from 2015. Even though it is below the average growth for imports in the European Union, which is +3.3%, it is still considered a positive result.

Asia unlucky for Italian imports

Vietnam was the least performing market in 2016 for Italian food, where imports decreased by 18%, closing under 50 million euro. The Asian area in general was unlucky for Italian imports last year as China lost 12% and Japan 3%. Thailand was stable and Singapore was not bad with imports growing by 7.4%, and Taiwan having a 10% increase.

A positive year in the USA

It was another positive year for Italian imports into the United States with a growth of 6%, for a sum value of 3.75 billion euro. There was an accelerated increase of imports during the last three months of the year which bodes well for the beginning of 2017. This of course is if the current American economic circumstances continue in their present trend of acceleration.


One of the ambassadors of Italian food in the world…The turnover of Italian pizza in the world is equal to 62 billion euros.

Main consumers of pizza in the world:
USA: 13kg
Italy: 7,6kg
Canada: 7,5kg
France: 5kg
Spain: 4,3kg
Germany: 4,2kg
United Kingdom: 4kg
Belgium: 3,8kg
Portugal: 3,6kg
Austria: 3,3kg

Trump and the import tariffs

The United States are always more of a strategic market for Italian food. It’s for this reason that US President Donald Trump’s threats to increase import tariffs up to 100% towards the European Union have raised such fear in our exporting companies. According to initial estimates, the food sector could be hit the hardest. Mineral water and vegetable preserves would feel the heaviest burden, but 75 other products could potentially be targeted. Some estimates report that Italy could risk up to 300 billion dollars in lost exports.


Despite the intense depreciation of the British pound over the euro, following the Brexit vote, Italian food imports into England haven’t taken a plunge. 2016 closed with a slight increase of 0.7% for a value of 2.83 billion euro. There are uncertainties with regards to the future but 2017 could also be positive if the British economic conditions continue to be favourable. Italian imports in neighboring Ireland saw an excellent increase of 7.6%.

San Daniele PDO

For Prosciutto San Daniele PDO, considered one of the finest Italian excellences in the cold cuts sector, 2016 was a very positive year for exports as they grew 6% from 2015 and are worth 17% of all total sales. This means that nearly one Prosciutto for every five was consumed outside of Italy. The countries that are the most ‘avid’ consumers of San Daniele Prosciutto are France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Japan.

Asiago PDO

Between 2009 and 2016, Asiago cheese exports grew 60%. This is a very important result for one of the most prized PDO cheeses in Italy who want to continue on this path. The Asiago Consortium’s 2017/19 development plan foresees an increased push towards exports, with particular attention towards the United States, Canada, and emerging countries in Asia and Latin America.

Italian sparkling wines

It was another fairytale year for Italian sparkling wines in the world. The sales of the bubbly grew in fact by 26%, exceeding, for the first time, one billion euro in turnover produced outside of the Italian borders. The majority of the increase in sales was due to Prosecco, the original sparkling wine sales leader in the world, that currently enjoys an extremely strong market position in England. Prosecco is also the most imitated Italian wine internationally with 400 fake labels discovered in the last two years according to the Consortium that assembles together all of the producers. Asti, a sweet sparkling wine that exported roughly 120 million euro worth of bottles in 2016, is the only product declining.

Bufala Mozzarella PDO

The forward progress of Bufala Mozzarella PDO on international markets is unstoppable. The exports of the “white gold” from Campania grew in 2016 and, at this point, 30% of production is consumed beyond Italy’s borders. Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United States are its most avid consumers, while the fear grows for foreign counterfeiting seeing its worldwide success in recent years. For this reason the Consortium is considering making production norms more restrictive: soon it will only be possible to use PDO Bufala milk as raw material.

Lower the traffic lights

The nutritional value, production experience, and flavour quality of Italian PDO and PGI products are always more recognized around the world. With this said though, the so-called ‘traffic light’ labels that are becoming more and more popular around Europe (England, France, and Belgium) risk weakening the popularity of Italian excellent food products. In fact, according to a Coldiretti study, a stunning 85% of Italian PDO products would be penalized by these labels. Extra virgin olive oil in particular, universally considered as the best condiment and a source of vitamins and essential fats for health, would be the hardest hit.