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NUMERO 7 - 28/03/2018

 Italian Sounding and Consumer Protection

In recent years, the image of “Made in Italy” has been significantly impaired – not only from an economic point of view but also as concerns the image and prestige of Italian products – as a result of illegal activities such as manipulation, tampering, sophistication, falsification or counterfeiting. Now, an even more subtle and extended phenomenon has been added to this list, which makes the most of the suggestive and evocative power of colors, images, locations and symbols connected to Italy: such phenomenon is called “Italian sounding. Italian sounding names cannot be considered as a phenomenon of counterfeiting in strict sense, but rather as an arbitrary reference to the value and quality of Italian products, which is used as a commercial strategy when placing new products on the market. Such phenomenon concerns especially the agrifood sector, where Italy has a unique repertoire of products as concerns quality and variety, and is related in particular to the extra-European markets, even if there are cases of imitation also within the EU countries. The phenomenon of Italian sounding has a relevant impact on national economy. According to a survey conducted in the markets of Canada, the USA and Mexico, a potential turnover increase of ca. 20 billion EUR in 2016 might have been generated if the problem of Italian Sounding could have been eliminated. The market related to Italian sounding agrifood products amounts indeed to ca. 50–60 billion EUR, which is approximately half of the turnover of the Italian agrifood industry (132 billion) and more than twice of its export (27 billion EUR). According to the data communicated by Assocamere Estero, between 2001 and 2010 this phenomenon increased by 180%, with an estimated impact of 25% on the export of the agrifood sector. The above-mentioned analysis considered several parameters: the kind of product, the packaging’s characteristics as concerns in particular trademarks, colors and graphics which recall Italy, price differences between the original and the imitation product, with an average of 30% and a maximum of 80%. Data concerning North and Central America are particularly worrying. According to Federalimentare, in those geographical areas – which are the largest export markets for the Italian food industry – the phenomenon of imitations is particularly widespread. It concerns 97% of the pasta sauces; 94% of foods preserved in oil or vinegar; 76% of canned tomatoes; 85% of cheese production. More generally, Federalimentare considers that in 2011 more than 60 billion EUR in revenue arose from counterfeiting and from Italian sounding products. Of that amount, at least 54 billion EUR revenue originated from Italian sounding, while only 6 billion originated from the counterfeiting... (segue)

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