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A preview of The Food Emporium’s “A Taste of Italy” promotion took place April 29 amidst the decidedly upscale surroundings of the A&P gourmet banner’s flagship Bridgemarket store, which gets its name from its unique site — nestled beneath the Queensboro Bridge at First Avenue and 59th Street in New York City.
Attended by Food Emporium store managers and executives, officials from the Italian Trade Commission (the sponsor of the promotion, under the auspices of the Ministry of Economic Development) and selected members of the media, the event provided a tasty sampling of some of the broad assortment of authentic Italian items from 14 regions that was highlighted April 30 through May 13 at the chain’s 16 Manhattan stores. Among those products, which include many center store stalwarts, including olive oil, sauces, pasta, ground coffee, chocolate and preserves, are over 30 new and exclusive gourmet items, according to The Food Emporium. Among the exclusive offerings are Tarall’Oro artisan pastas, ROI extra-virgin olive oil and olive products, and Venchi chocolate bars.
While Italian pop music played softly in the background, attendees tried such delicacies as slices of Parmacotto Di Parma prosciutto wrapped around wedges of melon to balance the saltiness of the “younger” (i.e., less cured) ham, and Illy Cappucino Tempesta — described as “a lightly sweetened espresso with a touch of cold milk.”
The Italian Trade Commission’s (ICE) aim is to educate consumers about the range of products Italy has to offer, and the best way to do that is through promotions at the retail level, explained Maria Woodley, senior marketing & promotion officer, Food & Wine Center at the ICE in New York. She added that besides The Food Emporium, with which the ICE has a long-standing relationship, the body was working with grocery chains such as Bristol Farms and Giant Eagle to launch similar promotions all across the United States. Over the years, according to Woodley, the commission has sent supermarket buyers to Italian regions including Puglia and Calabria to source new and different products — not just items most people associate with the country, but also products like fruit nectars, candy and salt.
While De Cecco pasta has maintained a U.S. presence for over 100 years, it’s still “good to refresh” people’s memories about the brand’s bona fide Italian origins, noted Alfredo D’Innocenzo, national accounts manager and regional manager at New York-based Prodotti Mediterranei, Inc., the exclusive importer of De Cecco products. Such campaigns as A Taste of Italy provide a great way to “increase visibility and brand familiarity,” added Prodotti marketing representative Anisa Robo, who made particular mention of the “beautiful display” of De Cecco items downstairs in the Bridgemarket’s capacious international section, where the promotion’s spotlighted offerings are housed.
For Richard Rosenberg, senior merchant, deli/cheese/bakery for The Food Emporium and a 30-year industry veteran, Italy, which he visits at least once a year on business, remains a bountiful storehouse, as well as a valuable source for items found nowhere else in the States. “We work with a lot of small producers all over Italy,” he said, explaining that the chain was able to leverage its 16 locations and large consumer base to “work out nice, limited-time exclusive deals” of around six months to a year.
The Food Emporium’s “A Taste of the World” program, which debuted in 2008 with Austria, and has since encompassed France, Quebec, Australia, Mexico and Africa, will soon feature Morocco and Chile. Rosenberg noted that the promotions had been “immensely successful in many ways,” among them the introduction of new items to American shoppers, thereby raising consumer awareness — and, yes, sales.
With a cuisine relatively unknown in the United States, such as that of Morocco, Rosenberg said that the trick was to “reel ’em in with couscous” and other more familiar foods, and then to introduce other items to provide a fuller picture of the country’s edible offerings. In addition, the Morocco promotion will feature such nonfoods as kitchenware, linens and even perfumes, to further the food preparation experience and help create the proper ambiance for consumers.
In all A Taste of the World programs, a group of buyers gets to travel to the highlighted area ahead of time “to get a feel for the country,” according to Rosenberg, and store managers are invited to an advance tasting so that they can knowledgeably expound on the featured products during in-store conversations with shoppers. Such careful preparation and attention to detail has resulted in what he characterized as “a great success, both externally and internally.”
A&P marketing manager Emily Force said that given the success of the A Taste of the World series, “we’ll keep it going,” with approximately seven programs planned for 2010 alone.
While the Bridgemarket location carries virtually all of the Italy promotion’s featured items in its international section, The Food Emporium’s other stores offer about 80 percent of the products, she noted.
The Food Emporium is a banner of The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P), which is based in Montvale, N.J. A&P operates 433 stores in eight states and the District of Columbia under the following banners: A&P, Waldbaum’s, Pathmark, Best Cellars, The Food Emporium, Super Foodmart, SuperFresh and Food Basics.
ICE, the Italian Trade Commission, is the Italian government agency that develops, facilitates and promotes trade between Italy and other countries. The commission operates 117 offices in 88 countries. Six of those offices are in the United States.