Italian cuisine and food overall, who doesn’t love it? And in Saudi Arabia, where there are plenty of gourmet enthusiasts, it’s certainly really appreciated!
We have witnessed it during the course of the past six years through our experience in 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 enthusiastically collaborated in the organization of a week of celebrations of said so 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 these events, such as starred chefs as Marco Martini, Angelo Troiani and Simone Coletti. Journalists and bloggers as Eleonora Galasso. Nutritionists as Prof. Luca Piretta and players in the field at an international level; ambassadors of a great tradition capable of innovating and expanding globally, without ever losing its genuity, regardless of the continuous hijack attempts.
Year after year, we have seen the rise of interest for this event, consolidating its popularity with important and ever-increasing numbers of attendance, to the point where it has become a tradition for the Jeddah scene.
The success of this event is due to the great participation of local players in the areas of catering and hospitality who have always given their contribution generously, too. We’re talking about large hotels such as Hilton, Park Hyatt, Sheraton, Assila, Novotel, Rosewood, Radisson Blue. Distribution chains and supermarkets like Danube and Manuel. Restaurants as Lallo, Margherita, Piatto. Major Italian brands present in Jeddah; Ferrero and Loacker and individual entrepreneurs; among others.
They have given birth over the years to small fairs of Italian flavor, with ad hoc set-ups at the Circolo Italiano or at their in-house restaurants.
Concisely, for a whole week in November in Jeddah, Italian food is eaten almost everywhere! Tastings, live cooking lessons, the launching 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 representative dishes of popular Italian cuisine!
For one nightfall, the Circolo Italiano, venue of the final event, is transformed into a real town square festival with kiosks illuminated by vintage chains of lightbulbs and the market section decorated with wooden fruit baskets 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 restaurant owners and managers, and final consumers who exposed to 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, are Italian food importations to Saudi Arabia so low?
ISBG sought an answer with a survey, made in December 2018 because 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 consumers and met multiple people in the Saudi HORECA area, including food bloggers, importers and large distributors, chasing the purpose of presenting our audit in front of an audience of KSA experts and professionals. Some other guests were invited to create a panel. The participants in question, were a young and passionate restaurateur, Basma Elkhreiji. An energetic entrepreneur in the food sector, Hisham El – 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, for instance, regulation and customs clearance times, excessive price mark-ups due to the many steps within the process, the need to educate and inform consumers and sales staff, etc. the great potential of this market was also highlighted.
Many ideas and proposals came up. Even though there is still a lot of work to be done, so much 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 crowd of fans of the Italian Way of Fooding is awaiting!
The opportunity is truly gluttonous and the ISBG proposes its digital platform as a showcase for presenting Italian products and manufacturers in the Saudi market, to convey their message directly to a target audience of potential Saudi business partners.
We have the relationships, the contacts, the experience and the tools… But above all, we believe in it!