Rapporto Coop 2021. Economy, consuption and lifestyles of today’s italians

A new normal is emerging at the end of the health emergency. New eating, lifestyle and emotional styles. This year we imagine the next normal of the Italians also thanks to the support of our community

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A multipolar world, an obligatory green revolution – After the worst crisis of all time, the best recovery ever. The variations in world GDP, all upwards, amounted to + 6% in 2021 but continue in the positive also in the years to come (+ 4.9% in 2022 and + 3.5% in 2023). China is running faster than all in a multipolar world in which the US seems to abdicate its historic role as a hegemonic power and also offers Europe the chance to become a stabilizing subject in the construction of new geopolitical balances among the many emerging regional players.

In Europe and in the world, Italy is experiencing a second youth; it grows faster than expectations (the leap forward in GDP could reach 6%), driven by exports that have already exceeded pre-Covid levels and by the digital conversion of their manufacturing. Above all, it enjoys a new and unexpected moment of international favor thanks to the recent, multiple sporting and musical successes, but also to the good management of the pandemic and above all to the authority effect generated by Mario Draghi’s premiership. During the European football championships, online searches associated with the word “Italy” grew by + 211% and Italy remains at the top of the world wish destinations. Above all, 60% of the international business community is convinced of the country’s greater attractiveness in the next 3 years and 48% considers it a possible destination for their future investments. Also for these new awards, 86% of respondents say they are proud to be Italian. And the confidence of Italians in Europe and the EU is also growing (today at 44% among the lowest values ​​in the EU but the highest among Italians since March 2011, therefore in the last 10 years).

The return to growth (in Italy and in the world) strongly re-proposes the pressing need for a great green revolution on a global level (44 are the countries that have committed themselves to laws, protocols, documents in 2021 compared to 22 just 2 years ago ); indeed, the time available now seems to run out, so much so that new geopolitical tensions due to the decrease in available natural resources seem to be feared (80% of the executives interviewed fear it). Skepticism (77% of the executive sample) in the possibility of achieving the objectives set in terms of pollution and climate change goes hand in hand with the awareness that respect for the environment and innovation are now the essential priorities of future development . Awareness is wide not only among managers. In fact, 79% of Italians declare themselves worried about global warming and 75% of executives entrust future development to technological and digital innovation and it is scientists and doctors who return to the top of the Italian reference models (respectively with 49% and 32% of the sample).

The anxieties of the present and the new shape of the future – “I think positive” is however the new post-pandemic mood for almost 7 out of 10 Italians and, put aside the rancor, trust in others returns (41% affirms this compared to the 19% four years ago), starting with the family and closest loved ones. In the renewed climate of benevolence, differences are also absorbed with greater elasticity. Thus our compatriots define themselves as pro-euthanasia and abortion, welcoming refugees and among the most LGBT + friendly on the continent. And while ranking among the last countries in Europe in terms of gender equality, 42% of Italians show awareness of this sad record. It is precisely women who are the most convinced of their abilities (already today they are more educated than men) and believe they are the first unexpressed potential that the country should take advantage of for its revival (among Italians, 42% of women support it. against a much more modest 18% of men). But the new “think positive” of Italians depends on the renewed awareness of “the important things in life” (45% of the interviewees) rather than on a concrete change in their living conditions.

In fact, the physical and mental wounds of the pandemic remain deep, long Covid anxiety has generated anxiety, insomnia, depression and eating disorders. (the total cost of treating depressive syndromes generated by the pandemic alone is estimated at 10 billion). In addition, poverty is multiplying, there are 27 million Italians who still experienced daily sacrifices and hardships in 2021, 18 million those who expect it to last over time and 5 million those who fear the continuation of sacrifices, even in the food sector. this, the growing optimism of Italians and the new foreign fascination for our country, will not immediately correspond to an equally rapid recovery in consumption. According to the majority of experts, Italy will reach pre-Covid levels only in 2023 (43% of executives say) and in fact in 2022 28% of Italians expect to have an even lower level of spending than in 2019: they are above all redundant, young people and women. On the other hand, in that hoped-for rebound in our country, it is employment that remains at the stake (its growth is too slow, in the first half of 2021 it is + 1.8%) and even if the forecasts are improvements, it will be necessary to see what job it will be: according to the sample, the risk is that underemployment (59%), undeclared work (50%), generation gaps (51%) will grow above all.

And in any case, in the hope of soon freeing themselves from Covid restrictions, Italy and the Italians come out of the “bubble” that imprisoned them since the beginning of last year and finally give new shape to their future, accelerating changes and choosing new priorities. After home working practiced during the pandemic, 69% of smart workers (9 million people) want to experience the new balance between work and private life allowed by hybrid work; mobility is also hybrid (157,000 e-bikes sold in the first half of the year and registrations for hybrid and electric cars continue to grow). Digitization has become a habit and puts 65% of Italians at ease, starting with e-commerce which, while slowing down, continues its growth (+ 18% in 2021 compared to + 45% a year ago). Even after the pandemic, the home nesting of Italians remains. The house is no longer a service space, but the new comfort area of ​​everyday life. There are 1.2 million Italians who want to buy a house and many more who, taking advantage of the new incentives, want to renovate it (8 million) in the next year, 6 out of 10 families who plan to change furniture in the next 3/5 years; at the same time, the attractiveness of large metropolises is also reduced and small towns / villages become the ideal places of residence for 1 in 3 Italians (it is more surprising than all that 67% of young people who intend to stay and live in the municipalities of the internal where it currently resides).

The environment and health sit at the table – Mirror and metaphor of the changes in Italians, food is profoundly transformed by the pandemic and turns green. 1 out of 2 Italians has changed their eating habits, some indulging in food comfort (23% are those who have gained weight – on average + 5.8 kg) and those taking advantage of it for a more balanced and healthy diet (15% those who lost weight on average –7.1 kg). If only 18% do not recognize themselves in any food culture and 24% refer only to the Mediterranean diet, more than half of Italians recognize themselves also or exclusively in other food identities (bio, veg & veg, gourmet, high-protein and low carbs), but the real novelty of 2021 is the appearance of the new tribe of climatars, or those (1 Italian out of 6) who declare to adjust their diet to reduce the environmental impact. And in any case, the environment becomes a reference for many Italians; 88% associate the concept of sustainability with food which means for 33% to have a respectful production method, for another 33% attention to packaging, for 21% it is synonymous with origin and supply chain and for 9% of responsibility ethics. Thus, 13% is reducing the consumption of meat (the so-called reducetarians), local and seasonal products are preferred, veg are also consumed by those looking only for a protein alternative to meat and double the sales of new generation vegan proposals ( drinks, bechamel, ready meals). And it is no coincidence that Italians recognize climate warming as the main factor of change in the food of the future, both by predicting a greater scarcity due to climate change (26%), and by imagining that to save the climate it will be necessary to change our diet ( 32%). For Italians, help will come from science and technology (26%) and in this sense among the new entries on the tables of Italians between now and 10 years there are vegetable foods with the taste of meat, based on algae, insect meal and also in vitro cultured meat. In reality, the food revolution is already underway. Investments in next generation food and drink alone in 2020 amounted to 6.2 billion.

Another great driver of choice, also enhanced by the pandemic effect, is certainly the search for greater well-being through food and 83% of our compatriots declare themselves willing to spend more in order to buy products with certified quality ( after us 80% of Chinese and only after Europeans and Americans). Moreover, the success of market segments such as free-from, rich-in, the same where it is often the branded product that responds better and more quickly than the leading brands. The growing well-being also explains the greater attention that Italians pay to the label; thus the indications on the origin and provenance of food are decisive for the purchase for 39% of Italians, for 28% the nutritional values ​​and to follow the production method (for 26%). Basically, Italians seem to pay increasing attention to the intrinsic contents of products and less and less delegate their choices to an unconditional trust in the brand and are less and less willing to pay for pure image contents. A phenomenon of the progressive decline of the brand that has continued for some time, made evident not only by the advent of discount stores (today 20% of large-scale retail sales) but also by the crisis in other modern distribution channels (from 2013 to today the loss of share of big brands is equal to -9%) offset by MDD (+ 9% in the same period of time) and also by small producers (+ 3%), evidently faster in intercepting the new changing needs of consumers.

Tensions and expectations at home in large-scale distribution – Like the Italians, operators in the food supply chain see a more rosy future but with different accents between industry and distribution. In fact, if both benefited from the new centrality of food during the lockdown, the differences in their respective levels of profitability remain wide, with the food industry maintaining double profitability performance compared to distribution. It is no coincidence that almost 1 in 2 of the managers of large retailers interviewed in the August survey foresees a structural worsening of economic results and / or having to reinvent their business model threatened by the long tail of the pandemic recession on household incomes, by the success of discounters that knows no respite (85% expect a further increase in sales) and the intensification of the competitive tension between the brands. At the center of future strategies for 45% of the sample, it is necessary to redesign the points of sale, perhaps pursuing an integration of the physical network with the new virtual channels (39%) and working on staff retraining (34%). Only afterwards do the investments to boost online sales arrive, a growing channel, but even after the exploit of 2020 (+ 121%) e-grocery remains a small segment of overall food sales (just over 2% of the total GDO). Moreover, after a growth of 46% in the first half of 2021, many operators believe in the next 12-18 months that the progression will stop or retreat (48%) or that it will be less than 20% (for 43%).

In the immediate scenario, the dynamics of purchase and sale prices are more worrying for large-scale distribution. There is a real risk that food retail will remain squeezed between the decrease in consumer prices (-0.7% the deflation of the price of food products in the first half of 2021) and the announced increase in the prices of raw materials and the price lists of industrial suppliers. A risk from which it will not be easy to escape.

COOP– “The scenario outlined in the 2021 Report gives us the image of an Italy undoubtedly transformed by the pandemic with positive aspects that encourage, but also with signs that still reveal the existence of heavy unknowns and strong inequalities. The post Covid for many people coincides with the time of renunciation on important aspects of existence, consumption seems to be the last of the sectors that will restart – comments Maura Latini, managing director of Coop Italia – In this scenario, an organization like Coop has a great responsibility, that of being able to find convergences between what we offer, and I think about our products, the quality that is inside and the affordability of the price. Responsibility that is exacerbated, if possible, by the progressive decline of the industrial brand. It will be up to retailers to interpret the needs of the various market segments. It is on this point of balance that we focus our way of being Consumer Cooperatives. As for the branded product, we are talking about more than 5000 products, almost 3 billion in turnover. More than others, we work on areas that, even from reading the Coop Report, turn out to be increasingly urgent, such as the great theme of sustainability understood as the environment but also as ethics. We were the first to promote antibiotic-free farming and the only ones so far to expel glyphosate from the cultivation of our fresh products. To cite a fact, our choice not to use antibiotics on farm in the Coop supply chains with our over 100 million poultry animals involved was one of the main accelerators to bring the poultry sector to an overall reduction of antibiotics of almost 90. % nationwide in the last decade.

It is not enough to be first in numbers you have to be first for virtuous actions, we intend to continue to move in this way, having as great leverage our branded products and constructive relationships with our partner suppliers. I add a further clarification on the subject of prices and I want to be very clear on this. A new negotiation phase with the brand industry has just started at the beginning of September, and requests for a hike have already been made. I want to say clearly they are not always justified and we will not accept increases that do not have a factual correspondence “.

“We are leaving behind a challenging 2020 that was faced by Coop with determination and in any case a year that has generated an important improvement in the characteristic management of large and medium-sized Cooperatives, with a return to profit in almost all of them – underlines Marco Pedroni President of Coop Italia and Ancc-Coop (National Association of Consumer Cooperatives) – We will continue to follow this path of economic improvement of our cooperatives in a 2021 that will inevitably slow down sales with the reopening of out-of-home consumption. We expect to close the year with a retail turnover in line with that of 2020. We confirm our desire to be a garrison and a point of reference for all Italians, whatever their social status. Our goal is to provide good, safe and sustainable food for all, accessible to all income brackets. We have made important commitments with the European institutions; non-superficial and all voluntary commitments such as joining the “Pledging Campaign” aimed at promoting the use of recycled plastics and the “Responsible Code of Conduct” which pushes us towards challenging and reporting goals on healthy and sustainable food. And then there is the PNRR and the great opportunity that a good address of these resources can generate, starting from supporting the demand for the lowest incomes. In fact, a situation is emerging in which domestic demand remains low, while there is a risk of making the consumer pay for the sharp increases in raw materials and energy. Inflation from external costs can have important depressive effects on the economic situation. There is a need, as the Coop Report also shows, to divert more incisive resources and policies in favor of consumption by acting, for example, on the tax exemption of sustainable products and there is a need for specific legislation for the conversion of shopping centers. We are talking about large surfaces to be redeveloped and recovered also in functions other than commercial ones, for multifunctional roles and service (public and private) roles for the community; interventions of this type are also useful in curbing building expansion and land consumption which continue to grow in Italy, in spite of the directives of the European Union “.

Translated with google translator