One month after the inauguration, we talked to one of IL POMO's CEOs, Maurizio Marioloni (in the photo), to make an assessment of how things have been going so far (the other CEO is Luigi Gallerani, owner of Befer).
Marioloni, manager of the Spreafico stand and former vice-president of ACMO, explains that the idea came from Tiziana Primori, CEO of Eataly World Bologna, who wanted to be actively available inside the market. Five operators out of 16 agreed: Agribologna, Befer, Cenerini, Novafrut, Spreafico and CO.FA.MO (for logistics).
"A varied setup with 4 commercial businesses, Agribologna (which is actually a producer cooperative gathering 135 businesses, located mainly in Emilia Romagna) and a service provider (CO.FA.MO.)".
"We have never thought of IL POMO as a business, we intended it as a showcase and are rather pleased with it. We have started to sell and some people are even doing their shopping! The real business is anyway the supply to other businesses operating within FICO."
Marioloni does not address the figures, but announces that a first overall budget of FICO activities for the first month (November 15th-December 15th) will be published in the next few days.
"The most popular products are clementines, oranges and apples as well as Noberasco dried fruit snacks and Di Nunzio dried pulses. We had expected fresh-cut and ready-to-eat products to be more popular (e.g. Agribologna's Fresco Senso fresh fruit salads or Spreafico's Vitamia pomegranate arils), but maybe they will pick up in spring/summer."
The average temperature inside FICO is 25°C, excellent for the public but problematic for the fresh produce. "The high temperatures lead to waste and over-ripening, which we try to avoid by rotating the products and placing them in refrigerated units overnight. However, this also means we need to prepare the stalls every morning in time for 10 am."
The Noberasco stand at IL POMO
"We try to have as many products available as we can, prioritising seasonal productions of Italian origin. Even exotic products are made in Italy: for example, avocados and mangoes are supplied by Spreafico growers in Sicily and pomegranates are supplied by Pomèl. The only fresh vegetables not available are leafy ones, as they can't stand the temperatures. In the refrigerated section, we find Mioorto fresh-cut vegetables, for which we have a three-month exclusive. We also have a partnership with Noberasco for dried fruit."
There is quite a lot of difference between displaying and managing the produce in markets and doing it in stores. Marioloni explained that the area was designed together with Thomas Bartoli (from Eataly Design), who curated FICO's architectural project.
There is still a lot to be done as regards communication and the capability of intercepting visitors providing information and pushing them to purchase.
At the moment, not a lot of information is given on sustainability, traceability, integrated production, food security etc. In addition, PDO and PGI territories should be promoted more as well as unique productions (such as bergamot and Abate pears). Each season produces a wealth of fruit difficult to obtain in other countries. Products promote themselves through their colour, freshness and variety but it's probably not enough, not in FICO, where information and storytelling are essential.
Purchases could be made easier and tours could be organised in the orchard and vegetable plot to explain how things arrive from the field to the table. In addition, the benefits deriving from eating fruit and vegetables regularly could be stressed. While there is a promotional area within the store, promoters are only there from Thursday to Sunday to explain the peculiarities of particular brands.
English should be used as well, as the park is an international stage to show off Italian food excellencies.
Marioloni confirms that a lot more can be done and that he knows the project is still a "work in progress". He promised things will improve after Christmas.
Fresh Produce Marketing and Communication Consultant