Italy, with a population of more than 61 million, and a landmass of 301 338 square kilometres is densely populated. Yet it produces significant quantities of foods, and specializes in many categories such as hard cheeses, sausages, processed meats, olive oil, short grain rice and several others. It exports many of its specialties, and imports basic foods that it cannot grow inexpensively like durum flour, beef to name just two items.
Recently, a large delegation of food processors visited Toronto looking for representation in Ontario ad other provinces.
There were many sausage, and ham producers. Vegetable-, coffee, olive oil, tomato sauce processors and one sea salt producer from Sicily were all represented by knowledgeable sales people.
Convenience food and advanced packaging have made inroads in Italy.
Sliced proscuitto, conveniently packaged canned goods, pastas, salts, all properly labelled PDO (protected designation of origin), PGI (protected geographical indication), TSG (traditional specialty guaranteed), and organic food product.
All exported foods are appropriately inspected by Italian authorities and approved by health authorities of importing countries.
Some companies reported exporting to more than 50 countries. Millions of Italians emigrated to North America, Mexico, Brazil, Argentine, Chile, Australia, South Africa, and other countries. Thousands opened Italian restaurants and import or prefer using Italian foods with which they are familiar i.e Parmigiano Reggiano, Parma or San Daniele ham just to name three specialties.
There were many prosciutto and sausage manufacturers, of which Fumagalli, Salumi Villani and Alcaruno stood out.
Fumagalli is represented in Canada and its hams and sausages are available in Toronto’s large grocery stores featuring Italian specialties.
Proscuitto from Parma is better known that that of San Daniele, but I found both to be extremely flavourful and enjoyable.
Parmigiano-Reggiano dairies were all represented with cheeses aged 24 to 32 months. The extra eight months of aging makes a big difference in taste, and price too.
Italians enjoy coffee. Reportedly, on average an Italian consumes four to five tiny cups of espresso and for breakfast a cup of cappuccino with pastry.
When in Italy never order cappuccino after 11 o’clock! Servers will start to treat you with contempt for not knowing any better!
Even a salt processor from Italy was represented!
Prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano producers need a lot of salt. I tasted a range of salts, fleur de sel, regular, coarse, and kosher. All tasted very pleasant, mild and refined as the sea salt from Sicily’s waters has a different composition.
Generally, Italians do not buy ready-to-eat foods, but it seems this old tradition is now on its way out. Several food processors offered tomato or herb based spreads; one cereal processor had a range of sweets and breakfast cereals.
Overall, processed foods on display were impressive, flavourful, appealing, and imaginatively packaged.