By taking a tour around Warsaw in some selected stores of the four largest Polish retail chains, we’ve understood that Italian food products still have a long way to go. Larger Italian food companies are easy to find, while small and medium ones aren’t at all present on the shelves with their own labels but rather as suppliers to these chains and labeled with made up names for the Polish market. From the store tour we got the impression of a lack of logic in the positioning of the products based on their categories. For example, soft drinks and carbonated beverages were located underneath fruit and vegetable stands. It often happens as well, that the big brands are not easily seen as they are hidden by the private labels or local brands. In fact, the latter tend to adopt names that clearly want to seem Italian but are not at all.
Piotr, wine and pasta are the most represented categories
There’s a sort of outpost within the Piotr mini market that we visited. It’s a well-stocked wine shop with an assortment of labels that are divided on the basis of their origin. A good number of Italian wines are available and generally priced over 10 euro a bottle. Not only are white and red wines available, but also sparkling wines, such as Prosecco and Asti, which are strategically positioned next to the vermouths like Aperol, Campari, and Lazzaroni. This illustrates how Spritz is making quite a splash around here. There is a wide assortment of spirits available and the shelves that are stocked together with various Italian liqueurs such as the sweet flavoured Latte Macchiato and Gianduia ones from the Bottega distillery in Treviso, which are sold individually at about 15 euro a bottle. As you leave the wine shop, you enter into the mini market. Just past the entrance is a non-food section that has shoes, various articles of clothing, and kitchen items that are all mixed up amongst themselves and then curiously enough there is an enormous shelf display of lagers and beers that are all mainly locally produced. We leave behind this area of random items and go in search of Italian food products in the store. As we become more aware of our surroundings, not just a few meters away, we run into the pasta section. The first part of the shelves is dominated by Polish products with Italian sounding names: Lubella, Barona, and Makaroni stick out the most. We continue our inspection finally running into Italian brands that help us feel less nostalgic with Barilla, Agnesi, De Cecco, and Alce Nero. The adjacent shelf of oil and vinegar see Monini’s imposing presence with six olive oil varieties plus a frying oil, while Ponti exports three types of vinegar to this point of sale, as well as a balsamic vinegar glaze made with balsamic vinegar from Modena Pgi. We also found Valfrutta’s, Cirio’s, and Mutti’s tomato sauces, all sold in double packages of 700g glass jars and 500g PET containers.
ITALIAN PRODUCTS: 8/10
PRIVATE LABELS: 3/10
LOCAL BRANDS: 8/10
Treasure hunt for Italian products at Biedronka
Our search continues to a central area of Warsaw along a main road in the most touristic part of the old city. Here we visit Biedronka, a supermarket that belongs to one of the leaders of the Polish retail chains. As we walk through the first area of stands – stocked with an unbelievable amount of all kinds of fruits and vegetables – we are hit by the strange realization that finding Italian products might not be so simple. Passing by shelves stocked with wine we memorize a type of Prosecco called La Gioiosa that costs less than 6 euro per bottle. In the frozen pizza aisle we couldn’t find one single Italian brand. Italian products seem to be a bonus for the store, but only in name. The brands that recall Italian products are all over the place with names such as ‘Sottile Gusto’ and ‘Vitalia’ among pesto and sauces which are 100% Polish made. In the end, our spirits are lifted by the sight of the coffee corner which reminds all that Lavazza and Segafredo are prestigious actors recognized all over the world and it is absolutely impossible to live without them. Both of these coffee producers are present in a number of varieties, with the 1kg bag of Lavazza whole coffee beans sold at 11.64 euro while Segafredo sold the same bag for 6.75 euro (as it was discounted 27% that day).
ITALIAN PRODUCTS: 5/10
PRIVATE LABELS: 8/10
LOCAL BRANDS: 9/10
Lidl, cheese department is 100% Italian
Lidl doesn’t disappoint, as it maintains the same appearance of its various stores located all over Europe. The German chain’s private label is the same one that we can find in other countries and the Polish capital is no different. The location that we visited was bright and well-lit with colorful packages lining the shelves. In the frozen foods department our attention is drawn to the brand ‘Trattoria Alfredo’ which is Lidl’s private label offering two varieties of pizza (Margherita and Prosciutto). They both seem rather inviting compared to the brand next to it called ‘Passionata’ whose Classica seems to undermine the idea of good taste by offering a pizza topped with an ‘ensemble’ of thick cubes of prosciutto which seem to dry up any potential watering of the mouth. We feel it’s better to move our attention over to the area of condiments where we find Barese, a name that certainly refers to Apulia’s capital, whose product line is made up of marinated olives and cherry tomatoes. By reading the back of the packages, we learn that both are made in Poland. The real Italian products appear right in front of us in the cheese department where we find the Lovilio brand, which was created exclusively for Lidl and provides the supermarket with a good assortment of our ‘best of’ with regards to dairy selections and is produced by various companies from our country: Grana Padano (Consorzio Latterie Virgilio), Mascarpone (Sterilgarda), Gorgonzola PDO (Igor), and Ricotta (Francia Latticini).
ITALIAN PRODUCTS: 3/10
PRIVATE LABELS: 9/10
LOCAL BRANDS: 7/10
A likeness to Italy stands out at Delikatesy
A mini market from the Polish chain stores, Delikatesy welcomes us as we conclude our tour. We immediately start our search for Italian brands which we find, first and foremost, in the coffee area. The only varieties we find, almost exclusively, are instant options aside from a single (and solitary) package of Lavazza Qualità Oro for 5.78 euro. Right next to that we can find some kinds of sauces from Ponti and Barilla. We find the same company from Parma just a few meters away with various pasta options such as Farfalle, Penne Rigate, Spaghetti, and Lasagne. Delikatesy also offers a display of a variety of condiments all lined up on an adjoining shelf. We can’t help but stop to inspect a 40g bag of Gratino which is a grated cheese made in Poland. A mozzarella tagged Galbani in the nearby fresh food section brings our thoughts back to the authentic flavours of the ‘old country’. This product is available for 1.39 euro in a 220g package. Galbani (owned by the French multinational Lactalis) has to share its shelf space with two Polish brands, Jager and Zott, which offer the same kind of product with a similar packaging.
ITALIAN PRODUCTS 8/10
PRIVATE LABELS: 4/10
LOCAL BRANDS 9/10