Why are Italian delis filled with shelves of enticing jarred and canned foods, but not American or Jewish delis? Why is your supermarket stocked with box after box of Italian pasta in shapes you could never imagine? Because the Italians, in addition to being producers of delicious foods, are great marketers of what they make.
Today I got to meet one of the head marketers: Dr. Maurizio Forte, Executive Director of the Italian Trade Commission. He was at my local Price Chopper/Market 32 supermarket (the stores are undergoing a name change) which has just become one of three chains (the others are HEB, parent of Central Market, in Texas and Marinaro’s in Chicago) to forge a direct partnership with the ITC to bring more Italian foods to their stores.
Dr. Forte told me that the American grocers are able to pick and choose from the many Italian products offered to them, so it’s up to the producers to make their pitch for inclusion. If the product is not successful in getting picked up, or doesn’t sell well in the stores, then the ITC gives them coaching in how to succeed in the American market. And that’s why there are so many Italian pastas on your grocery shelf. These guys are just genius marketers.
We toured the store to see the installations in place and Dr. Forte got a little more serious. It became obvious that he’d like to see his products showcased (“like any parent would want for their children,” one of his colleagues told me) while Jerry Golub, Price Chopper’s president, prefers to present “a wall of cheese and let the customer decide.” Both guys were doing their job and in fact there was quite a lot of Italian product on sale and featured in a promotional flyer.
I had to leave before they got to the sauce (or “gravy” as we call it upstate) which would have featured Italian plum tomatoes alongside not only upscale sauces like Rao’s and Mario Batali but local products like Casa Visco from Schenectady. I expect Dr. Forte and Mr. Golub would have had plenty to talk about. But the consumer is the one who walks away a winner. There’s great food, and lots of it.
P.S. There’s also a trip to Italy being given away. If you have a Price Chopper in your area, pick up and buy product from the flyer by this Saturday October 22, and each item purchased counts for an entry in the drawing.