Food industry is much safer today (Alberto Chiriotti)

Alberto Chiriotti, the CEO of Italy-based Chiriotti Editori family business that specialized in food and beverage industry technical magazines, considered that European companies must focus their competitive edge on quality against the low-cost mass production from the BRICS. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reduction of labor costs has been a good step forward, but much remains to be done regarding bureaucracy and legal simplification, Chiriotti added. Actually much safer than decades ago, the food industry has changed the way it communicates with the consumer, concluded Chiriotti who answered our questions below:

Version française disponible ici.

Background

Alberto Chiriotti is 52 years old and worked since 1983 in his family company, Chiriotti Editori, Italy-based and founded in 1950 by his father Giuseppe and his uncle Giovanni. Chiriotti Editori is specialized in the publishing of technical magazines and books regarding the food and beverage industry (www.chiriottieditori.it). For 9 years, Chiriotti has been the President and CEO of the company and the publisher of 4 magazines in Italian language and 2 magazines in English language. Other magazines are managed by cousins of his.

The Interview

1) The global economic landscape has changed a lot in the last decade. China has emerged as the world’s second largest economy and the BRICS, though currently in rough waters, have reached 30% of global GDP. As the CEO of a SME in what’s still the world’s 8th largest economy – Italy, how do you deal with this new world in matter of competition, quality, and production? What would you tell to the next generation of European entrepreneurs?

A.C.: The European companies cannot compete against BRICS companies with regard to low-cost products or mass products, where the labor costs and the infrastructure costs are much lower than here, but they – the next generation – need to focus their efforts towards high technology, food and wine (our true heritage) and our leadership in the style / design in every sector, not only the luxury (jewelry, clothing, etc.) but also in the automotive, furnishings, and lifestyle.

2) A YouGov poll over 1,000 SMEs revealed that only 14% believe that the European Union (EU) makes it easier for their business to employ people while 31% believe the EU makes it harder for them to employ people. What’s your opinion? Is the EU an issue for business, and if so, can it be fixed?

A.C.: It’s hard for me to give a good answer if the EU makes it easier or harder to employ people, since Chiriotti Editori is a family company and we need local employees only. In general, I think the situation has changed for the better for basic work, the work that EU residents don’t want to do.

3) Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is well respected across Europe and got very positive media coverage for his “courageous reforms” of Italy’s economy and public sector. What is the reform which has been the most useful for Italian businesses so far? What remains to be done so that Italy gets even more competitive?

A.C.: I think one of the best reform made by Prime Minister Renzi in favor of the business community, but also for the young people, is the “Job’s Act” which allows companies to reduce labor costs and to liberalize the labor market, and for young people to have more opportunities to find a job. But the big issue that we still face is the necessary reduction of bureaucracy in order to have the rules that simplify and speed up the possibility to open a new firm and to expand a production site; last but not least, to reduce the tax burden.

4) Your company – Chiriotti Editori – specialized since 1950 in technical magazines for the food and beverage industries, two of them in English. In the United States as in Europe, there’s endless debate about “how unhealthy” the food industry in general has become for the public. What main changes have you noticed about the food industry in your 35-year career? How does the Italian food industry make a difference?

A.C.: In the last decades, the food has generally become much safer and healthier compared to 40-50 years ago, but at that time people did not know anything about ingredients, nutrition and food safety. Nowadays, people are much more informed about food and they want to know what they eat. On the other hand, it’s very hard to have good / correct information because the Internet has allowed everyone to find out about food but it is difficult to identify what is true from what is false or exaggerated. For these reasons the food industry has changed the way to communicate with the consumer: now the marketing is focused on highlighting the beneficial effects of their products, more attention to the environment, use of natural ingredient instead of artificial ones and food, etc. Before the creation of the EU, Italy has always had stricter legislation for food production; this fact, along with the great tradition of Italian cuisine and with a large variety of DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) and IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) products, allows Italian food industry to play a lead role as a producer as well as exporter.