Rovagnati “From the family to families”
In a rare interview, Claudia Limonta, wife of the founder and President of the Rovagnati Group, provided an insight into how the company has grown, inspired by its values and intuition – and how it is becoming increasingly international.
The Rovagnati story began in the 1940s and 1950s with Paolo Rovagnati, who turned tradition into an icon. What are the values that the company has clung to over time? Paolo Rovagnati has always offered consumers a genuine product, with the most authentic Italian tradition at its heart. His true intuition, which we still keep to today, has been to support industrial craftsmanship. We managed to overcome various economic and media crises by focusing on the two elements which have characterized our history of the last 25 years, and which are part of the company DNA: quality and innovation, as well as great attention to consumers and their needs.
“I made them, and I signed them off” is the trademark claim. Does this synthesize the sense of responsibility passed down by Mr. Paolo?
The signature is a great invention of Paolo’s, then copied by other entrepreneurs, not just Italians, which has given new impetus to branded products. Until then the brand - which, as in many cases, contained the very name of the family - was the only imprint of the entrepreneur. The signature designed by Paolo is a trademark enhancement, the quality assurance of that product, almost a contract with consumers. A signature closes the gap between the company, which is usually perceived as being distant, and the consumer. It is the seal of a covenant between those who sell and buy. It comes from our gastronomic and sauce-making heritage, the cradle of our company.
Il Gran Biscotto needs no introduction: the name says it all and the brand is unmistakable. How did your husband think up the concept?
He was enthusiastic, he knew he had a revolutionary idea, which would give a boost to his product, Il Gran Biscotto. Paolo was a careful market scientist, he understood that the consumption of cold cuts was changing, that the introduction of prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) was revolutionary. He personally went to the shops, the retail outlets, to listen to people. While prosciutto cotto was garnering attention and being used in the kitchen, it was still little-known to consumers. Prosciutto cotto was considered the cinderella of cured meats. Paolo, on the other hand, believed the opposite. He was convinced that a top-quality prosciutto cotto would become a widespread consumer product. And it is because of his willingness to introduce his product to as many people as possible, that he met with the famous
Paolo Rovagnati is a young bachelor who gives everything to the project just as he has done to his bride: he leaves his studies and entrusts his training to experience.
presenter of the Italian “Wheel of Fortune” (“La Ruota della Fortuna”), Mike Bongiorno, and became sponsors of the program. Great foresight. Mike was the right person to tell Italians about Il Gran Biscotto Rovagnati.
Rovagnati is a modern and evolved company that hasn’t lost its genuine family spirit. How much does this affect company management?
The family as the centerpiece of our work is the distinctive feature of our company and its management, our products and every activity we undertake. Our products are designed by a family for Italian families – consumers, buying them, say they feel that. Family is synonymous with good things, relationships, home. They are the distinctive elements of our products. Family for us also means making our products easily accessible all over the world and, naturally, this country. This is why, over the years, we have also invested heavily in distribution networks that enable us to be present in 10,000 hypermarkets and in 25,000 shops and supermarkets, thanks to the work of 250 people whose professionalism we have invested in and will continue to do so.
Maintaining high quality has always been the group’s priority. How can you keep consistently high standards?
Quality, for us, begins on the farm, where animal welfare is a priority. Another important aspect, our strong point, is to maintain the craftsmanship of cold cuts, especially of cooked ham, which make our products unique. We carry out hundreds of daily checks at all stages of the production chain so that only the best hams are marked Rovagnati and make it to the tables of our consumers or restaurant kitchens.
Rovagnati’s cultural tradition goes hand in hand with technology. Innovation is a major part of investment. What are the group’s next moves regarding research and development?
We have always been concerned about product innovation and of course, offering consumers the best products. We were amongst the first in Italy to introduce vacuum-sealed salami, which is a guarantee of top quality for customers, and adapts to new eating habits and consumption needs. We have invested in sustainability by minimizing the environmental impact of production. Through our Rovagnati Lab, our technicians are working towards innovation every day.
Rovagnati’s quality is appreciated not only at national level but also abroad. Which are the most developing markets and what kind of activity do you intend to implement to intensify this process of internationalization?
We are currently present in many European markets, particularly France, Germany and Belgium, but we are looking at markets with a growing focus on Italian salami and, in particular,
our Cotto Gran Biscotto: first of all, the United States and Canada. Also China, and the Far East in general, are opening up to the consumption of Italian salami.
Brand growth has also been supported by important acquisitions, such as the historic brand invented more than a century ago by butcher Whilelmus Van Berkel, today a global icon of slicing machines. How does this type of synergy increase brand value?
The acquisition of Berkel is part of a broad-based policy that aims to provide our customers with a consumer experience beyond the product. And that means slicing our hams and our salami with the best slicers. It looks like a secondary aspect but the tools used for slicing hams and the know-how of salami makers make all the difference in the product that is brought to the table.
It is no coincidence that behind the best Italian delicacies at delicatessens, as well as at many restaurants currently serving cold cuts and, of course, in the Bistrò Rovagnati, there are Berkel slicers. The acquisition of Berkel has had a significant impact on the brand’s value, especially among big players in the industry, because it has been interpreted as the will to focus more and more on the quality of service.
In November 2016, Rovagnati went on to acquire Pineider, a well-known Florentine brand of artisanal stationery. Why this particular diversification?
Every day we carry out hundreds of checks at all stages of the chain so that only the best hams become Rovagnati products.
The acquisition of Pineider by Rovagnati SPA is part of a larger diversification project undertaken with Berkel and characterized by the relaunch of prestigious brands of Made in Italy, in a market where the customer wants absolute quality.
At the end of 2016, the group made its debut in the direct restaurant trade, with the opening of 2 Rovagnati Bistrò, an operation that witnesses the desire to get closer to the final consumer. Is Milan Square is just the beginning?
We decided to focus on quality catering and started in Milan, the city where I was born, to promote a more direct relationship with the consumer, and to enhance the use of cold cuts in the kitchen, drawing from tradition but by innovating at the same time. With this in mind, the Rovagnati Academy project goes to hotel schools throughout Europe. We invite young students, the chefs of the future, to reinvent the use of kitchen sausages, leading players in Italian gastronomic culture. “BISTRÒ ITALIANO” offers to all fans of good cooking tasty but light, delicious appetizers and light lunches based on Rovagnati recipes, with salami the main element in these gourmet matches. This is a way to rediscover our consumers’ different uses of cold cuts.
The acquisition of Berkel has had a significant impact on the value of the brand because it has been interpreted as the desire to focus more and more on the quality of service.
Claudia Limonta, President of Rovagnati, with her sons Ferruccio and Lorenzo