Italian agribusiness industry, a family success story

In Italy, 67.7% of small or medium food companies (270) is family-owned, a higher incidence than the overall number of family companies surveyed
Italian agribusiness industry, a family success story

With revenue of 133 billion euros and 1.3 million employees, the food sector has consolidated its role as the second largest industry in Italy and 67.7% of these small or medium companies (270) are family-owned, a higher incidence than the overall number of family companies surveyed by the AUB Observatory (58%).

The hallmark of the family-owned food companies monitored by the Survey – promoted by AldAF (Italian Family Firms Association), the UniCredit group and the University of Bocconi and Milan’s Chamber of Commerce and presented at the Barilla headquarter in Parma –  is longevity, where control has been maintained by family members who are used to ‘handing down their recipes’ from father to son and holding the top roles in the company.

In terms of added value, the agribusiness industry represents 4% of Gdp (2.1% agriculture and 1.9% the food industry). With a focus on small or medium companies, 339 food companies were identified with turnover of over 50 million euros in 2012 and presented a fairly representative sample of the food sector in general (generating approximately 60% of the turnover of the whole sector).

Emilia-Romagna has proved to be a region in which the food sector is very relevant: 42 of the 234 family run groups of medium and large size analysed by the Observatory (17.9%) are based in the area and have a revenue of over 10.4 billion euros. The average turnover of these companies is 248 million euros, which is higher than the national average for other family-run companies in the food sector (205 million).

Back on the national panorama, food companies are divided into five sectors: drinks, dairy, confectionary, canned goods and other food goods (e.g. Preparation and conservation of meat). The research investigation shows a dominating presence (68.8%) of family-run companies of over 25 years. The capital of three out of four companies (78,9%) remains in the hands of the owner family. The food industry has a strong tradition of handing down ‘recipes’ from father to son: approximately 30% of companies are still first generation and 6.8% are now past the third generation. A total of 76.8% of companies has a family member at the helm.

This trend for respecting values connected to history and tradition is also reflected in the composition of the managing board, largely overseen by members of the family. Further analyses show, however, how it is companies who are more open to outsiders that perform better. The close relation between family and company has not impeded the evolution of governance, so much so that alimentary companies have turned to more complex hierarchy systems in recent years: 46.9% of companies have been led by a team of ceos in the past year (compared to 33.7% 10 years earlier) and 11.4% by a single managing director (compared to 20.4% 10 years earlier).

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