High prices, reduced food consumption. The 14th edition of Osservatorio Imagine

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Italians’ food consumption is confirmed to be contracted by the surge in prices, also in the 14th edition of the Imagine Observatory. The new GS1 Italy report crosses the information reported on the labels of over 136 thousand products with NielsenIQ’s findings on sales in Italian hypermarkets and supermarkets in the period June 2022-June 2023. (1)

The metaproduct of Osservatorio Immagino

The metaproduct I guess is the statistical indicator that calculates the average nutritional profile of over 80 thousand products. In this edition the indicator shows the growing success of proteins – as well as the slight reductions in carbohydrates, sugars, fats and saturated fats, Kcal – in the food consumption choices of Italians. Unfortunately without indicating the salt trend.

The average nutritional table for 100g of product it looks like this:

  • 175,9 Kcal. A very slight decrease (-1% compared to the previous survey);
  • fats, 8,5g. Slight decrease, -2,1%, thanks to the lower contribution of categories such as seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, olive oil, tuna in oil, butter, snacks and mayonnaise;
  • saturated fats, 2,9g. Minimal decline, -0,9%, linked to lower consumption of seed oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter, multipack ice cream, mozzarella and pandoro, partly counterbalanced by the growth in consumption of chicken eggs and sports nutrition;
  • carbohydrates, 19,3g (-1%);
  • sugar, 7,3g (-1,4%). A trend that can also be deduced from the success of the claims referring to the reduced sugar content, as we will see;
  • fibers, 2,1g (-0,2%). The indication of the quantity of fiber on the label is optional and is specified only on 49.275 products. The average intake remains at the levels of the previous survey, thanks to the combined effect of the greater contribution of traditional biscuits, sports nutrition, preserved and extruded beans, sweet spreads, chips, tomato puree, frozen pizzas and milk replacers, combined to the reduced consumption of wholemeal/multigrain biscuits, frozen natural vegetables/fruit, flours/mixtures, semolina pasta, wholemeal/spelt/kamut/legume-based pasta and snacks;
  • proteins, 6,7g (+1%). The growth is driven by the higher average consumption of chicken eggs, sports food, fresh desserts, UHT milk, fourth-process poultry and rabbit products, sweet spreads, parmesan cheeses and similar, traditional biscuits, wraps, sandwich bread and UHT milk-based drinks.

Italianity in decline

The Italian origin of foods – the first claim examined in the 14th edition of the Imagine Observatory – is highlighted on the labels of almost 26 thousand products. Among these, however, the trend is for a general decline in volume sales (value sales still maintain a positive sign due to price increases). In detail:

– Italian flag. The most used identification sign (over 15 thousand products) is this year combined with a 4% contraction in sales in volume. Turnover, on the other hand, is growing: volume sales are +11,4%, for a total turnover of 6,5 billion euros. The most penalized categories are cold cuts, frozen pizzas and fresh milk.

– 100% Italian. The 8.339 products bearing this claim on the packaging lost -4,1% in volume and gained +13,8% in value. The greatest drop in volumes concerns cold cuts, alcoholic beers, fresh-cut vegetables and multipack ice creams;

– produced in Italy. Here the worst trend of signs of Italianness emerges, with -7,9% of sales in volume and +4,6% in value. Basic ready sauces, anniversary eggs >30 grams, Italian DOC and DOCG wines, frozen breaded prepared fish and frozen ready meals are bad.

Geographical Indications (GIs)

The indications DOP, DOP and DOCG appear on 4.494 products, with a turnover of almost 1,5 billion euros in the supermarket and hypermarket channel. Overall, sales recorded -2,7% in value and -2,6% in volume.

They are driving the decline of volumes especially DOC and DOCG wines, dry Charmat sparkling wine and classic sparkling wine. However, the 1.286 PDO products are resisting, developing the highest turnover (over 691 million euros) and recording the highest growth rate in value (+11,8%), keeping volumes stable (+0,1%).

IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) and IGT (Typical Geographical Indication) in turn recorded a contraction in volume sales (-7%) and a modest increase in value sales (+1,8%). Among the 2.110 products labeled in this way, they include in particular cold cuts, semolina pasta and wines.

Region you go

The depression of consumption also touches on foods with highlighted regional origins. The over 10 thousand products in this basket show a growth in turnover of +7,3% (to over 3 billion euros) and quantitative sales of -3,9%.

Only six indications of regional origin sales increase:

– Sardinia. UHT milk is good, butter, fourth range vegetables, mozzarella and alcoholic beers are bad. The 623 products Made in Sardinia they maintain volumes (+0,5%) and increase turnover (+17,15), which is worth 207 million euros;

– Puglia. Of the 775 products, they include fresh stretched curds, IGP and IGT wine, tomato puree, mozzarella, fourth range vegetables and whole and portioned table cheeses. Overall, sales recorded +16,9% in value and +3,4% in volume;

– Umbria. Among the 225 Umbrian products, especially carbonated, non-carbonated and slightly carbonated mineral waters, and tomato purées increase sales in large-scale retail trade. Overall, volumes sold grew by +3,2% and turnover by +15%, reaching 144 million euros;

– Molise. This regional indication achieved the best results of the year: +26,9% sales in value and +7,5% in volume. Among the 144 products, which almost reached 113 million euros in sell-out, semolina pasta and tomato puree stand out for growth;

– Basilicata. With just 45 products, the indication of Lucanian origin is worth 22 million euros. Sales grew in value (+9%) and volume (+2,6%). Thanks above all to the strawberries;

– Valle d’Aosta. Positive trend both in volumes (+6,6%), thanks to fourth processing of poultry and poultry (pre-cooked chicken and turkey preparations) and sliced ​​table cheeses, and in sales values ​​(+13,8%). The 31 products labeled as Valle d’Aosta are worth almost 10 million euros.

Free from, few sugars and no aspartame

Among the 16 claims relating to the world of free from, which is worth almost 8 billion euros (+11,8%, but -4,4% in volume), only those relating to sugars are associated with a numerical increase in sales, driven by fresh desserts, fruit based drinks 30-99%, bases, traditional biscuits and drinkable yoghurt:

  • ‘low sugar’, +8,3% in volume and +23,6% in value;
  • ‘with no added sugar’, +12,1% in volume and +27% in value. This claim, we observe, can almost always also be read as ‘with sweeteners’. In essence, we don’t give up the sweet taste but we turn to non-caloric sweeteners, which are sometimes problematic.

Emblematic the case of the synthetic sweetener aspartame, classified as a probable carcinogen by the IARC and still authorized and present in numerous foods. (2)

The most aware consumers have learned to avoid it. The Imagine Observatory report reports that the ‘aspartame-free’ claim, present on only 66 products, supports sales in value (+10,1%) and volume (+2,8%).

‘Without antibiotics’ and the others free from

The first three claims in terms of turnover in the free from basket they replicate the pattern that almost all baskets follow:

  • ‘Preservative free’, present on 4.351 products for a turnover of over 2,7 billion euros, marks +8,3% in value and -8,2% in volume. The decline is generalized but particularly accentuated for frozen savory specialties and mayonnaise, which also fell in value;
  • ‘low fat’, identified on the labels of 3.168 products, is associated with an increase in turnover (+15,3%, up to over 1,7 billion euros) and a numerical drop in sales of -2,2%. Fresh desserts are good, cold cuts and sweet snacks are bad;
  • ‘palm oil free’, the third claim by turnover, appears on 2.629 products. Turnover grew by +12,1%, up to 1,5 billion euros, but sales decreased in volume by -4,1%. Pastry, poultry and poultry processing, traditional biscuits and snacks were the markets with the greatest growth; sandwich bread, sweet snacks, trunk bread, breakfast cereals and sweet spreads are in decline.

Among the ’emerging’ claims, finally, ‘without antibiotics‘ – out of 330 products – recorded a marked increase in turnover (+20,1%), which exceeded 273 million euros, albeit with a slight drop in volumes (-0,8%). Eggs are growing and fish specialties and natural frozen fish products are declining.

The ‘rich in’ basket

The basket of the ‘rich in’, compared to the 12 months prior to June 2023, showed the greatest resilience in volumes, which fell by only -0,9%, and the highest growth in turnover, which increased by +13,9%.

Of the 12 claims detected by Osservatorio Imagine, only three are associated with a numerical increase in sales:

– ‘proteins’ is first in terms of turnover, followed by ‘fibres’ and ‘vitamins’. It develops a turnover of 1,7 billion euros, +19,6% in value and +4,5% in volumes. The leading products are fresh desserts, fresh milk, sports food, parmesan cheeses and similar;

– ‘probiotics’ grows both in value (+15,4%) and in volume (+1,3%). The 541 products with this claim on the label are worth over 405 million euros. The best results emerge for fermented milk/kefir, crescenza, whole yogurt and fresh industrial products;

– ‘magnesium’ also grows both in value (+10,8%) and in volume (+2,9%). The Imagine Observatory identified it on the labels of 438 products which generated 126 million euros in sales. Breakfast cereals, chamomile, sports nutrition and supplements are the best performing categories by volume.

Allergens burdened by high prices

Foods accompanied by the indication on the label of the absence of an allergen are 10.959 for a turnover of over 4,7 billion euros. The basket overall recorded an increase in turnover of +9,5% and a decrease in numerical sales of -4,8%.

  • ‘Gluten free’ remains first in this basket in terms of turnover (>3,2 billion €) and number of products (8.594). As expected, turnover increased (+6,1%) and volumes sold decreased (-6,8%). Bad cold cuts, mayonnaise, Easter eggs and frankfurters.
  • The ‘gluten free’ logo with the crossed out ear of the Italian Celiac Association (AIC) it appears on 1.972 products, which are worth a turnover of almost €668 million (+4,5%), however in the face of a significant drop in volumes (-7,5 %). In particular, cold cuts and baby food, frozen natural vegetable/fruit products, sweet spreads, skyr strained Greek yoghurt, fruit-based jams and spreads, and frozen foods are particularly bad.

Free from lactose and eggs

To this trend two claims are exceptions:

– ‘lactose-free’ is second in the ranking for turnover (€ >1,9 billion) and assortment (2.727 products) and achieved the best annual performance in the basket, with sales of +16,6% in value and +0,9% in volume. Above all, fresh desserts, parmesan and the like, functional yogurt and UHT milk-based drinks are growing in volume.

– ‘without eggs’ instead, it is last in the ranking with just 166 references and €26 million in turnover. It stands out instead for the annual growth in volume sales, +2,6%. Very good fresh unfilled pasta, fresh gluten-free pasta and healthy biscuits.

Vegetarian and surroundings

In the basket lifestyle claims include 13.000 products for a turnover of 4 billion euros in supermarkets and hypermarkets.

  • ‘veg’, i.e. vegan and/or vegetarian, is the claim worth over 2,3 billion euros in sales. The 4.800 products presented in this way increased turnover by +11,8%, but at the price of a -2,8% drop in volumes sold, in particular in mayonnaise, mozzarella and Greek yogurt.
  • ‘Vegetarian’, detected on over 2 thousand products, drives turnover by +12,3%, up to 1,6 billion euros. Volumes fell by -2,6%. Mayonnaise, mozzarella, skyr strained Greek yogurt, extruded products, sliced ​​table cheeses, whole/portioned table cheeses and vegetable sauces/spreads are bad.
  • ‘Vegan’. Same trend as the two previous claims. The 3.630 products labeled as vegan increased turnover by +10,4%, to exceed 1,1 billion euros, but dropped in volume sales by -2,3%. Male extruded, frozen natural vegetables/fruits, other infusions and vegetable sauces/spreads.

Organic certification

The ‘organic’ claim is the most widespread (8.259 products) of the basket as well as third in terms of turnover (1,2 billion euros). Turnover grows (+2,3%), but volumes drop significantly (-8,4%). Fresh milk, biscuits, wholemeal/spelt/kamut/legume-based pasta, jams and fruit-based spreads are bad.

The findings, remember, consider sales in supermarkets and hypermarkets. They therefore do not take into account additional organic distribution channels, such as specialized shops, markets and e-commerce.

Kosher and halal

Certifications kosher and halal, which identify products made in compliance with Jewish and Muslim religious dictates, have variable trends.

  • Kosher is detected on 1.663 products worth 894 million euros in turnover, up by +11,2% while volumes fell by -4,5%. Evil extra virgin olive oil, breakfast cereals, sweet spreads, pralines and chocolates, jams and fruit-based spreads.
  • Halal appears on 504 certified products, which grow in value by +17,2% and – an exceptional case in the basket – also in volume, +2%. The volumes sold of semolina pasta, parmesan and similar products, sweets and sweet snacks are increasing.

The beneficial ingredients

In each of the seven groups in which the beneficial ingredients are organized there is some positive data also in volume. Overall, however, the sales of the 13.667 products in this basket grew in value (+11,2%), to a turnover of over 4,3 billion euros, due to the high prices, but decreased in volume, -2,8%.

1 – Traditional. In this group, only the claim ‘caramello‘ increases sales volumes by +10%, but against an increase in value of +41,4%. The claim ‘cacao‘ turnover exceeds one billion euros, which grew by +9,4% only due to price increases. In fact, volume sales fell by -4,2%, due to sweet spreads.

2 – Superfruits. Three claims show a brilliant result. ‘Avocado‘ proves to be highly appreciated by Italians. The 65 references that mention it on the label have increased turnover by +37,1%, now above 34 million euros, and volumes sold by +22,2%. ‘Cashews‘ grew by +15,5% in value and +7% in volume. It appears on 242 products for a turnover of 56 million euros. ‘Coconut waterfinally, it expresses a niche of 1,6 million euros for 11 references, but marks +8% in value and +4,3% in volume.

3 – Supercereals and flours. Even in this group (2.221 products) three claims, bucking the trend, also drive sales in volume terms. ‘Oatmeal‘ out of 623 products it marks +18,4% in value, up to a turnover of over 298 million euros. A positive sign also for volume sales (+6%), thanks above all to UHT milk substitutes, crackers and wholemeal biscuits. Same trend for ‘Rice flour‘ (+16,4% in value, +2,2% in volume) and ‘rice oil‘, which appears on just 20 products, +14,2% in value and +3% in volume.

4 – Sweeteners. The two claims monitored have opposite trends. ‘Sugar cane‘ loses -8,7% in volume sales and increases value sales by only +3,7%. ‘Stevia‘ is instead growing both in value (+8,5%) and in volume (+3,7%), especially thanks to tea-based drinks, sports foods and infusions.

5 – Seeds. Subdued performance for products with the five claims relating to seeds. ‘Flax seed‘, first in terms of turnover with 152 million euros, also stands out for its annual growth in value (+20,4%) and – the only one in the micro basket, in volume (+5,2%), thanks also to the performance tuna in oil. Very bad ‘hemp seeds‘, -19,4% in volume and -14,7% in value for the 52 products accompanied by this claim, which are worth 3 million euros.

6 – Spices. The group has 896 products with over 88 million euros in turnover and complies with the general trend with a negative trend, -2,3% in value and -9,5% in volume. For ‘ginger‘sales down by -1,2% in value and -8,8% in volume, especially for tea and other infusions. ‘Turmeric‘ loses -8,6% in value and -15,8% in volume. ‘Cinnamonfinally, it lost -2,8% in value and -9,1% in volume.

7 – Superfoods. The star of the group isSpirulina‘, with double-digit sales surges in both value (26,5%) and volume (16,2%) driven by gluten-free pasta and fresh juices. 38 products contain the wonderful algae. (3) The sale of the 36 tea products is also expandingmatcha‘ (tea and ice cream desserts): +7,6% in value and +0,5% in volume. Very bad, finally, ‘Goji berries‘, -24,6% in value and -27,4% in volume, and ‘acai‘, -21,8% in value and -27,3% in volume.

The beauty of craftsmanship

The processing method of foods is explained with nine claims on 3.897 products. Only two indications are associated with an increase in volume sales:

– ‘artisanal’ was detected on 750 products (such as frozen pizza, cold cuts, fresh pasta and other fresh string cheeses) and is associated with record growth in sales, both in volume (+33,9%) and in value (+40,8, 144%), exceeding XNUMX million euros in turnover;

– ‘not fried’ appears on 372 products. Extruded products and crispy loaves are among the foods with the most dynamic trend. The basket is worth 114 million euros, up by +13,9%. Volume sales increased by +1,3%.

The trend of the first three claim for turnover follows the scheme dictated by the high prices:

– ‘cold extraction’ appears on 348 products, concentrated in extra virgin olive oil, which are worth almost 277 million euros. Turnover grew by +13,5%, while volume sales fell by -5,9%;

– ‘drawn’ qualifies 1.295 products, essentially pasta. It is worth a turnover of over 268 million euros, increased by +12,3%. Also in this case, volume sales decreased by as much as -8%. The trend of the other claim typical of dry pasta is similar, ‘drying‘, which appears on 317 products and is worth a turnover of 115 million euros, increased by +4,3%, but with decreasing volume sales (-10,1%), especially on semolina, kamut and spelled pasta;

– ‘handmade’, the third claim by turnover (over 153 million euros for 356 products), increased sales in value (+6,5%) and decreased sales in volume (-6,9%). Bad tuna in oil, recipe tuna with side dish, cold cuts and fish-based second courses.

Soft and fragrant texture

The consistency of foods it is described on the label through 11 claims. Also in this basket, as noted by the 14th edition of Osservatorio Imagine, an increase in turnover (+15,4%) and a drop in sales (-2,3%) is expected, especially for the ‘thin’, ‘crispy’ claims. , ‘soft’ and ‘filling’.

Only two claims sales also increase in volume:

– ‘soft’, reported on approximately 1.000 products is worth almost 569 million euros. It is the most successful claim in the 12 months monitored, with growth in value of +18,5% and in volume of +1,4%, thanks above all to sandwich bread, bauletto bread and sandwich bread;

– ‘fragrant’ qualifies 272 products. It is first in terms of increase in turnover, +18,7%, up to almost 162 million euros, and keeps volume sales essentially stable (+0,5%).

Marta Strinati


(1) Imagine Observatory, fourteenth edition 2023 • 2. GS1 Italy Servizi

(2) Marta Strinati. Aspartame is a possible carcinogen, according to IARC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Dario Dongo, Marta Singed. Spirulina, the microalgae that nourishes, stimulates the immune system and helps you lose weight. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".


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