Vinalfood was founded on July 1, 1968 by Elie Platini, a then independent representative for several Italian brands just like his father, Giovanni Platini. Giovanni was an Italian immigrant in Belgium… View Article
Vinalfood was founded on July 1, 1968 by Elie Platini, a then independent representative for several Italian brands just like his father, Giovanni Platini. Giovanni was an Italian immigrant in Belgium who started introducing Italian brands into the country, a business that remains in the Platini family hands today (the current director is Jean Platini, son of the founder). We asked Business Development Manager Michaël Platini all about the bulging Benelux market... Bellavita: How has the demand for Italian food grown over the years? Michaël Platini: Vinalfood remains a representative of Italian brands in the Belgian market, with 75% of our range being Italian products. We work on an exclusive basis usually distributing a single product by product category, exclusively for Belgium. The brands we distribute must be leaders in their markets in the country of origin. At this time we focus on dry food. The company is currently located in Wommelgem by Antwerp, and has a storage warehouse of 5000 sqm. At present, the building is being remodelled to make room for a training/tasting centre, with a fully fitted professional kitchen in order to organise tasting and training sessions for our clientele. Vinalfood’s original focus was put on retail. All Belgian supermarket chains are in our customer portfolio. We also have ethnic clientele (Italian and Maghreb shops), electronics stores and Ho.Re.Ca. wholesalers among our clientele. Vinalfood, together with Dell'Oro, likes to present itself as a strong partner for our foreign brands. With the right know-how for the Belgian market. The entire team of the Vinalfood-GROUP is currently made up of nearly 30 employees with a sales team of 12 people. Bellavita: Why does the Benelux market love Italian food so much? Michaël Platini: Italian food is one of the most well-known cuisines in Belgium, second to the local kitchen. Italian food has a reputation for being honest, simple, tasty and healthy. Many of our customers visit Italy during the holidays and experience the real Italian kitchen and its famous wines, then come back and want to find them again in Belgium. The most popular wines are the three kings and the Chianti and Bardolino, but we are also specialised in the more special wines and grapes. We feel that people are leaving the French wine market and trying to find new solutions in the new world, but that they are not always satisfied with the quality or vinification. Therefore, they come back to Europe and try Italian, Austrian and Spanish wine. More and more people are now convinced that Italy is a true wine country with a lot of varieties in wines and grapes. At the moment our bestsellers are Barbera d’alba biodynamic, Roero Arneis, Garganega from Valpolicella, Montepulciano D’abruzzo Biodynamic, Custoza, Lugana, Lambrusco. Bellavita: What are the benefits of buying from small and local producers? Michaël Platini: Although organic has become a commercial label, more and more people are realising that almost all the products that come from small and local producers have an organic background. More and more people are also realising the benefits of the biodynamic (Demeter) approach - especially in wine. Organic is also becoming popular in dry-food products. Bellavita: What are the things that matter most when you look for a new product? Michaël Platini: Innovation: We are always looking for something new to try but it has to link with Italy. Unique variations of typical favourites such as pasta, wine and oil are probably the most exciting thing to discover. Tradition: It is not the opposite of innovation but rather the collaboration between the two. We are looking for producers who have a long tradition and understanding of their production but are also open enough to add new technologies or products. For instance, our grissini producer also made chips using the same base ingredients as grissini while our pasta producer makes pasta with chickpeas. Some of our wine producers make wine in vinification which is not allowed by the consorzio but it's a surprising result without any appellation. Packaging: Especially in dry food and wine its very important to have a nice and attractive packaging, with 70% of our wine customers in Belgium buying wine without tasting it so they look at the label to recognise a name of appellation or grape, or an attractive modern label which is different to others. Then, if the quality is good they will re-buy it, but the first buy is always influenced by the packaging. Contact: We have to have a match with the supplier to achieve a good collaboration: figures, quality and price can only account for so much. You have to build up a relationship with your supplier and that is only possible if you have a good feeling about your professional contacts and we even prefer to meet the owner or family of the owner instead of an export manager. Bellavita: What are the benefits of exhibiting at tradeshows like Bellavita? Michaël Platini: It's a great opportunity to meet Italian producers. You get to see a fuller picture of the market and what it has to offer, in terms of trends as well. There's also the chance of course to meet you existing supplier in a different setting and taste products you've not seen before. Michaël Platini will be a Judge of Excellence at Bellavita Awards at the Expo in Amsterdam, which will take place November 20-21st. Get your ticket here.