Parmigiano-Reggiano: unprecedented agreement on Canada

More than 13,000 additional wheels following an agreement with leading retailer Loblaws

Reggio Emilia, 21 March  2012 - After ending 2011 with a 4.2% increase, the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium has had a further boost to its product export activities with the signing of an unprecedented agreement between a primary production and sales company from the production area (the Mulino Alimentare S.p.A. Industria Casearia company) and Canada's most important retailer.

This is Loblaws, a real giant in the sector with approximately 1,400 supermarkets, 22 corporate trademarks, a 43% market share, and a turnover of nearly EUR 18 billion.
'We are absolutely delighted,' stated the President of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Consortium, Giuseppe Alai, 'with an agreement to which we have contributed that leverages not only our general objectives of strengthening exports, but also the remarkable economic and strategic significance of the operation.'
In figures, the three-year agreement between Mulino Alimentare and Loblaws will mean sales of 10,000-13,000 wheels in 2012, i.e. 450-500 tons, which, irrespective of further increases determined by other operators, will immediately lead to a 30% increase in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese exports to Canada, where in 2011 the sales of this "King of Cheeses" (1.700 tons) rose in value by 19.56%. A particularly significant supply contract, signed after running a test in 2011 which have totalised a turnover of around 3 million Euros.

But it is not only these figures that bring a smile to the faces of Parmigiano-Reggiano producers.
'Loblaws,' explained  Giuseppe Alai, Consortium Director Leo Bertozzi, Chairman Claudio Guidetti and Foreign Trade Manager Stephen Greiner of Mulino Alimentare S.p.A. in a press conference, 'becomes the protagonist of a project that aims at eroding the market of that so-called "Parmesan" cheese so heavily present on the Canadian market and on which no protection actions towards Parmigiano-Reggiano are possible because of the absence of international global rules like those introduced by the EU. As a result, all the players involved in this operation will be making a strategic investment in a PDO product with decisive effects at the Loblaws points of sale, as well as an indirect action on the competitors and their references, first and foremost similar but non-authentic cheeses.' The contract deals with supplies of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese diversified by trademark, both as whole cheeses for deli counters and as portioned packages, grated cheese, slivers and slices for self-service shelves bearing the customer brand.

Apart from anything else, the operation is going to be launched at a bumper event which is expected to smash the world record: on 24 March, over 360 Loblaws supermarkets will simultaneously split open a corresponding number of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheels using traditional knives, to break the previous record of 176 wheels set in 2008 in the USA. The main venue will be the "Maple Leaf Gardens Center" in Toronto, the famous former  stadium of the Canadian Hockey national team and a major venue for international entertainment events (where Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, amongst others, held memorable concerts), now owned by Loblaws and turned into a model point of sales for the retailer with its original structure, including the hockey field.
'The goal,' Claudio Guidetti stressed, 'is obviously to focus the greatest attention possible on Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the communication activities alone for the Loblaws event are going to come to over 1,200,000 Canadian dollars (more than EUR 900,000).

The Consortium and the Mulino Alimentare S.p.A. will both be engaged in strengthening certain forms of communication and, above all, in on-site support activities with their staff. The event will be broadcast by the main national themed television channels. At the same time, Loblaws has begun transmitting a television programme from their "Cooking School" to teach how to use Parmigiano-Reggiano in various dishes, going far beyond the simple use of grated cheese as a condiment, and stressing the quality of this heavily imitated, unique product.

'We have already organised briefings, training activities and cutting demonstrations,' underlined Stefano Greiner and Simone Ficarelli, Foreign Marketing Manager of the Consortium, 'and results have been first-rate, producing an immediate 20 to 25% increase in sales, which suggests that the 24 March event, focusing on the spectacular and on an excellent product that fully lives up to Canadian consumers' expectations, will open the doors even wider to our exports.'