'Italy has always been an excellent market, in terms of catering and large-scale retail alike, although there certainly are many difficulties.' So says Jeff Martin, head of the Italian Office of Eblex, a division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the British non-governmental organization for the support and development of the agro-food industry. Eurocarne Post interviewed him to analyse the situation for the beef-veal and lamb-mutton market on an international scale and in Italy, as well as the objectives that Eblex has set itself.
Jeff Martin: what is the situation on lamb-mutton and beef-veal market in Europe? Has it felt the crisis or has it performed better than other sectors?
'As regards our meat, both beef and lamb, the European market is substantially positive: exports of our products have been positive throughout the world over the last year. The situation is rather different in Italy, where the market has practically come to a standstill.'
In this context, how important is Italy for Eblex?
'Despite the crisis, we are still confident about the future because Italy has always been an excellent market and we are sure that it will continue to be so, both as regards catering, where the quality of QSM beef is held in high regard among top chefs, and in terms of large-scale retail. Italian consumers also appreciate the qualities of our beef and lamb.'
What are the main difficulties on the Italian market, compared to Europe and Britain in particular, you have encountered?
'There are two main problems: Italian market prices are lower and there is a significant drop in consumption, especially for top-of-the-range products, because people put price first. In this situation, then, products such as beef and especially the finest cuts, such as fillet, are the ones that most feel the pinch. On the other hand, Italian consumers are learning to buy and cook other cuts, that are less expensive and less prized but equally tasty and great value for money.'
What are the future prospects for Eblex in Italy?
'The meat market has become increasingly difficult. Prospects for the future as regards the British meat industry, however, are definitely positive. England is increasingly competitive, the entire sector is modern and very avant-garde and offers quality products that Italian consumers increasingly enjoy. We will continue important marketing campaigns and communication at all levels in Italy.'
The special feature of Eblex beef is its maturation. How do Italian restaurateurs and consumers respond to your quality brand?
'The hanging method used by the British beef industry is a matter of pride for the entire beef sector in the country: this procedure involves a minimum of 7 days on the bone, although some companies extend the maturation period and even hang the meat for 14 to 21 days (on the bone or under a vacuum) at a controlled temperature. Maturation is what makes the meat tender, just like British beef. This is a quality acknowledged and appreciated by many renowned Italian chefs, gourmands, journalists and opinion leaders and, more importantly, final consumers.'
Source: Eurocarne Outlook