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When we talk about Turin and Piedmont, it is inevitable that our attention also turns the many delicacies linked to its region, like the legendary penguin gelato or, of course, our wines. We think of Barolo, Vermouth and spirits. Today we are talking about such products of excellence with Edoardo Cavagnino and Roberto Bava.
The first thing I would like to ask you both is why they have chosen to be part of a network that encompasses so many different product categories. What are the benefits?.
We as a company are traditionally in the world of wine, so associations are a matrix build up over many years. We know what it means to work together, but this gives us the opportunity to compare our business world with others. The world itself remains our ultimate objective and it’s far too big to for us to take on alone, so this is a great network experience in every sense.
I’ve had a long personal experience of working in association, because when I started working I immediately began attending the ‘Gruppo Giovani dell'Unione Industriale di Torino’ – the Industrial Youth Group in Turin - and I found this a very enriching experience. I find fact of being able to deal with people who have to face up to similar problems and situations, even if they’re in completely different sectors, (as was the case in the Youth Group) to be very inspiring and actually helps train yourself to think about problems from many different points of view. This is certainly one of the fundamental aspects of our participation in the EBT network, as well as to learn more from those in the network more experienced in working abroad, where we are somewhat less present and therefore certainly able to benefit from the experience of others. I also feel something of a sense of responsibility for our region, because we represent an important part of its excellence. So when we go abroad, we are happy to be able to do it all together.
Among one the unexpected benefits of the network is the way we’ve co-marketed our products – one of the first perhaps being that between Pepino and the Vermouth di Cocchi that we produce. In fact, we produced a Vermouth-flavoured gelato– the first ever in the world. We almost did it for fun, but it proved to have a synergistic effect on the two partners, who have the same cultural curiosity, realised through this joint-venture.
t was definitely a stimulating experience to resolve the ‘complexities’ of having to transform an historic Vermouth into an equally historic gelato; that was quite complicated and we needed to do lot of research and development. In the end, it came right, in the form of our classic covered gelato stick ‘the penguin’ - covered with chocolate, but with lemon zest in the chocolate to recreate a little of that classic taste you experience from Vermouth with ice and lemon. So the fact of bring together two companies from different sectors, or even from the same sector but with very different products as in our case, stimulated us to think about how to research and develop and innovate a product that could perhaps go on to create new traditions in the future.
Edoardo has spoken of responsibility towards the world, of representing Italy and of exploring international markets. So I’d like to ask him what are the key factors in succeeding in this venture? Product quality for sure, but are there any others?
Certainly quality is vital a product like ours - a food product destined for abroad. Let's say that in Italy quality is something we’re used to: we eat well all over Italy and therefore perhaps sometimes we take it for granted and the consumer doesn’t feel the need to look too closely at what the ingredients and production processes are. On the other hand, in other countries, where food standards are not so assured, consumers might be more inclined to look more deeply into the ingredients and production processes involved. The is an advantage for us, as it means they’re choosing us for our quality. Another key point for us is being able to talk about our standards of quality - having an effective story to tell. And, in addition quality, our region is also something that is of great interest abroad - knowing that this is where this quality comes from. This is also one of the reasons why we have built this network, in order to be able to tell everyone about this region of great excellence in in so many different sectors. And then there’s transparency - it’s essential nowadays because the customer is well-informed and wants to hear a back-story that needs to be as transparent as possible. Therefore, we must to be able to demonstrate all the steps behind the creation of our product.
Let's move on to another company that represents Piedmontese quality and which has gone out into the rest of the world. We are talking about Bava wines – founded in 1911 and which have continued its tradition through local expansion and by always developing new products that are always anchored to a tradition of great quality. So I’ll ask Roberto how tradition and innovation are reconciled and how his products are faring both internationally and also online…
That’s an absolutely current question. We are celebrating 110 years this year, but we have really been wondering for years what tradition really signifies, as it's an evolving concept. First of all, it's not just about history. I mean, I can say 'my grandfather did it' yes, but maybe he did it wrong! Today we are expected to give consistency and continuity at the very least, but continuity must be verified and always questioned at every new step in the production process. With wine and in the vineyard, there has always been a huge evolution, yet the vineyard remains one of the most stable, historical and immobile things over time. When cold technology arrived, we had to rethink how we would control, for example, the fermentation of wines to produce a much better end-product. Were I to drink the wine my great-grandfather liked, I probably wouldn’t like it because of the way we have all evolved as well. Another concept of tradition through time to consider is the fact that a tradition can be invented. How old is a tradition? For thirty years we have planted Chardonnay in Piedmont: it is a new tradition and in fifty years it will be a historical tradition. So even these issues are by no means trivial and need to be talked about. Be careful of hiding behind a tradition that has not been verified. In this concept of evolution, the sales channels also evolve; today they’re more online. In our world, we have had some difficulties, the sale of wines and spirits online has been much slower. The pandemic forced us to accelerate, but it is an acceleration that would have happened anyway. I don't think we will lose the original channels, but they will certainly be integrated and the service improved through online sales.
Let’s stay on the theme of tradition and we have here an heirloom from Pepino, which was founded in 1884 thanks to Domenico Pepino: a Neapolitan gelato maker who moved to Turin and very soon became the purveyor of gelato to the court. Then in 1916 it passed to two other families - of which Edoardo here is from the 5th generation - so we have a very significant amount of tradition there. This is one of the very first containers used for storing gelato - so we could say one of the first-ever takeaway trays. How important is this mix of innovation and tradition? How much is having a history behind you so important?
A tradition such as Pepino’s is certainly very stimulating, as it’s supplied gelato to four branches of the Royal House, something absolutely unique in the world of food at the time. It was actually the supplier to some of the most discerning palates across Europe for over half century – in fact as long as there were monarchies and aristocracies. It is a past that deserves respect and, as Roberto said earlier, one that now needs to be reinvented. It is not a past on which to sit and fossilise, but one from which to draw ideas about quality and how to build on the relationship we have with the customer as the market stands at the present time. So our goal is to bring a new story with us every day - one that we can pass onto future generations.
Having the same long history of Pepino and having to manage it in some way makes me think about how it can be turned into an opportunity: I would describe as like having a library with many books. As well as the new books that help the library to get bigger, there are still the old books that your great-grandfather, your grandfather, your father and also you, yourself have placed in the house. And we read them all!
We have heard from Roberto how important innovation is to the company. Nowadays, we talk a lot about innovation in terms of respect to the environment and therefore to the conservation of our region. Bava has a very strategy about this - to listen to the language of the land and respond consistently. So I ask how important this aspect of protecting the land is for you at the moment.
Today it’s all the fashion. We must find in our language all the reasons to be or to become one. We are a specific case: we are farmers, we are winemakers: so in some way we have always had to listen to both the voice and soul of the land. Our production line is a vineyard, it is not a bottling plant ... therefore we must respond consistently to the messages coming from the land and we have always been doing so. So accessing solar energy, for example, was a natural step for us. Today, the company even resells solar energy back to the grid. As regards the matter of Carbon Dioxide emissions, we felt compelled to keep 40 hectares of forest, to offset it with Oxygen emissions and reset the balance . We should probably get certification for it and talk more about it. For us, the significance of the product has always been a constant: we produce wine that we would also like to give to our children. Let’s take for example production of strawberries: would you rather give your child the strawberries you grow in your garden? Of course. In my opinion, that is the subtle difference between hardcore business and a business with one eye on the future. In reality it is a way of life and it is a way of passing on to the next generation both our values and the land we cultivate.
Thanks to our two guests for their answers and also for making our mouths water!