Retail

Discovering an Italian cheese cathedral in Australia

European Foods, a pioneer food importer doing business in Perth since the early 60ies has opened the Marketplace; a new food mecca, with an interactive approach, housing Australia’s largest cheese room

The Marketplace is the latest addition of the largest specialty food and beverage business in Western Australia, European Foods. With a history that spans through many generations- started by John Re, the son of a Sicilian immigrant in 1936- the same family run the business until 2018 when it was sold to the Yukich family group.

The latest chapter of the saga started acknowledging the glorious past while adding a more modern approach to the business. “One of the things that really made European Foods different from all the other wholesalers in the market was that they had a cash and carry, so people could feel and taste and experience the food before they bought it” explained Miguel Buccellato, CEO of European Foods. Not only, but the wholesaler was also a pioneer when it came to bringing the first Italian and European products to Western Australia.

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TOUCH, FEEL AND SMELL

Food is touch, feel and smell”; this is why at the Marketplace, people are invited to “come and taste the products and create the menu according to what is available”, continued Buccellato, who has an Italian background to be proud of as the business he runs. “Historically, the first European food importers were Italians; this is why their produces have always been on the front line among imported food in Australia. But, as the following generation entered the business, they started making their food locally. More and more people wanted Italian style food produced locally, especially because of sustainability. In the meantime, the range expanded to other European products and also the business reflected these shifts.

It became an importer from all around Europe and the US”. The philosophy is well reflected also in the most interesting feature of the new business: the cheese room, the biggest in the country, with a range of 400 products from thirteen different countries.

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THE ‘FAB’ 4 ITALIAN CHEESES

For European Foods CEO, besides the selection of products also esthetics is important. “I wanted to combine beautiful products in a beautiful space, I think cheese is beauty” and these words are well reflected in the glass structure and display of the cheese room. “We toured the globe to find and inspiration to create something that was new for Australia, something that was ‘warehousy’ big but beautiful at the same time”.

In the cheese range, for example, there is a 25% Italian products. The big four Italian cheeses are: the Grana Padano, the Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago, and Pecorino. We also import gorgonzola, burrata, and  mascarpone; one of the most successful product in terms of sales is mozzarella that we bring in every week on air freight from a number of producers in the South of Italy”.

FROM ITALY TO AUSTRALIA

When it comes to select which products can make their way from Italy to Australia, Buccellato chooses a three-sided approach: “We spend a lot of time attending international trades and fairs but we also have a number of suppliers we purchase directly from, like Agriform – a very large cooperative based in Parma – and we also have a very interesting partnership with Valsana near Venice. They go around Italy and Europe to look for very artisanal, small producers, very high quality and very expensive cheeses”.

When it comes to importing products from overseas, Buccellato’s has one insight to share: “One thing we learned as importers is the value of having someone in that specific market doing quality control, especially from artisanal producers, before the good are shipped. So, having a broker can reduce the costs and the risks”. It is interesting to look at the approach behind the Marketplace business model to try and detect some macro-trends when it comes to imported goods in Australia.

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Chefs are also looking for a point of difference, they want something innovative and new but most of all they want products that have a story; they want to know the region, who was the farmer and what struggle the farmer had to endure to produce that product and why the product is so amazing. Sustainability is important, but most of all is small innovative and artisanal producers”, concluded Buccellato. “We are all about artisanal, innovation, new and cool produce, the smaller the better. I think going forward, people are moving away from the large staples and we will keep on moving towards high-end products with a great story”.

by Francesca Valdinoci

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