Italian Consumers in Search of Premium Products, Despite the Crisis

In Italy, as in the rest of the world, consumers are increasingly looking for products that can attract them both rationally and emotionally. Despite the recent period of economic crisis with 44% of Italians today declaring that they do not consider their economic position any better than five years ago, premium products are nevertheless showing strong growth (i.e. all products with a price 20% higher than the market average). In fact, data shows that the growth of these products is stronger than that recorded in most of the market FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) categories to collectively generate an increase in value of 15.6% over the last year.

It is also interesting to note that this phenomenon is often related not so much to leading brands but to niche ones, that increasingly over the past years have adopted winning differentiation strategies with respect to the rest of the market. These brands have understood that in Italy it is not simply a matter of price; indeed, only 15% of consumers define a product as a premium due to its cost. This scenario is what emerges from the Nielsen Global Premiumization Survey where 30,000 internet users were interviewed in 63 countries, including Italy, to analyze the behaviors and habits of consumers specifically in relation to ‘premium’ products.

What are then for Italians the peculiarities that identify this type of products? In line with other European countries, the quality of ingredients and materials with which they are made is the first requirement for the 45% of consumers. This is followed by the offer of functions / higher performance than other products, the ability to do more things than the rest of the market, but also the offer of a superior customer experience (respectively 39%, 34% and 30%). In line with the trend of recent years, the research also shows how the attributes of “green” products are translated into a strong premium potential. Italians in fact claim to be willing to pay a higher price for environmentally friendly products (20%) and even more for those composed of natural and organic ingredients (22%).

It is therefore not surprising that the consumers surveyed indicated fresh produce as the categories in which they are willing to spend more: 31% for meat or fish, 26% for dairy products (milk, yogurt or cheese) and 23% for bread and bakery specialties. 17% were also willing to spend more for rice and cereals, compared with 9% in France and 8% in Germany.

It is important to remember that there are many different methods to entice consumers to try new premium products. While in fact, Italians personally do research before deciding to buy a premium product (33% of them), 25% make purchases based on word of mouth from friends and family. However, for companies brand image remains essential in order to convey their brand message and emotionally engage the consumer as emotional impulse buys still account for 22% of premium purchases by consumers.