Italian cuisine … who doesn’t love it? And in Saudi Arabia, where there are plenty of gourmet enthusiasts, it’s really appreciated!
We witnessed it during the course of the past six years through our experience with the Italian Cuisine Week events, organized in Jeddah by the Italian Consulate under the guidelines of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. ISBG has always collaborated enthusiastically in the organization of a week of celebrations of Italian cuisine, with particular focus on promoting the agri-food sector and the Mediterranean diet as a model of healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Protagonists of the Italian cultural-gastronomic world took part in the events: starred chefs as Marco Martini, Angelo Troiani e Simone Coletti, journalists & bloggers as Eleonora Galasso, nutritionists as Prof. Luca Piretta and players in the sector at an international level. Ambassadors of a great tradition capable of innovating and expanding globally, without ever losing its originality, despite continuous hijack attempts. Year after year, we have seen the rise in interest for this event, consolidating its popularity with important and ever-increasing numbers of attendance, until it has become a tradition for the Jeddah scene.
The success of the events is also due to the great participation of local players in the field of catering and hospitality, who have always given their contribution generously. Large hotels such as Hilton, Park Hyatt, Sheraton, Assila, Novotel, Rosewood, Radisson Blue, distribution chains and supermarkets such as Danube and Manuel, restaurants such as Lallo, Margherita, Piatto, individual entrepreneurs in the sector and major Italian brands present in Jeddah such as Ferrero and Loaker. These and many others have given birth over the years to real small fairs of Italian taste, with ad hoc set-ups at the Circolo Italiano or at their in-house restaurants.
In short, for a whole week in November in Jeddah, Italian was eaten almost everywhere! Tastings, live cooking lessons, launches of Italian products in supermarkets, conferences, screenings and round tables … all culminating in the final evening, dedicated to Italian Street Food. A real binge of pizza, focaccia, supplì and Sicilian arancini, cheeses, ice creams and many other iconic dishes of popular Italian cuisine !! For one evening, the Circolo Italiano, venue of the final evening, was transformed into a real town square festival, with kiosks illuminated by vintage chains of light bulbs and the market area adorned with wooden fruit boxes and flowers.
The experience and contacts gained through Italian Cuisine Week has confronted ISBG with the peculiarities of the Italian food market in Saudi Arabia. Over the years we have collected the testimonies of restaurateurs and final consumers who told us the difficulty in finding Italian ingredients on the market, especially fresh ones. So how, with all this passion for the Italian Way of Fooding , and a whole country of good eaters, Italian food imports into Saudi Arabia are so low?
ISBG sought an answer with its survey, launched in December 2018 in the wake of that year’s Italian Cuisine Week event. With the help of Dr. Roberto Liuzza, expert in strategic and management consulting, we interviewed about a hundred final consumers and met various players in the Saudi HORECA sector, including food bloggers, importers and large distributors. We presented our survey in front of an audience of KSA experts and professionals and invited some guests to create a panel. Participants were a young and passionate restaurateur, Basma Kerjii, an energetic entrepreneur in the food sector, Hissam Farouki , the GM of a large international hotel and the CEO of a distribution chain, Kalid Darwish of Manuel Supermarkets.
While facing the issues that emerged (regulation and customs clearance times, excessive price mark-ups due to the many steps, the need to educate and inform consumers and sales staff …), the great potential of this market was also highlighted.
Many ideas and proposals emerged. There is still a lot of work to be done … but a lot has been happening in Saudi Arabia, thanks to the profound reforms driven by the government project VISION 2030 , starting with the streamlining of customs operations.
A large market of fans of the Italian Way of Fooding is awaiting!
The opportunity is truly gluttonous and ISBG proposes its digital platform as a showcase for presenting Italian products and manufacturers on the Saudi market, conveying their message directly to a target of potential Saudi business partners.
We have the relationships, contacts, experience, tools … and above all we believe in it!