Italians savor panettone to keep Christmas sweet in crisis
By Isla Binnie
MILAN (Reuters) - Cash-strapped Italians are refusing to let recession stop them enjoying their iconic panettone Christmas cake, and are even embracing variations on the tightly regulated recipe.
Italians ate about 38,000 tons of the dome-shaped cake last Christmas, according to industry association AIDEPI, and the two biggest producers are confident this year's sales will hold up.
With a few days to go until Christmas, market leader Bauli said this year's orders could still outstrip 2012 and Maina, the second biggest producer, expects its sales to rise more than 20 percent in 2013.
"Panettone is holding on despite economic difficulties, showing the Italian consumer does not intend to give it up," said Marco Brandani, chief executive of Maina.
Alberto Bauli, Bauli chairman, said his company expected to make about 500 million euros ($685 million) from all its baked goods this year, up from 483 million euros last year.
Italian consumers, shopping for Christmas during the country's longest recession for 60 years, are still choosing expensive panettone, which can cost 5 euros in the supermarket but sells for upwards of 28 euros in upmarket bakeries.
"People are being careful about what they spend, but they want quality," said Antonio Cipriani, standing behind the counter at his cafe and bakery in central Milan. "They might buy one panettone instead of two, or a smaller one."
The traditional panettone weighs 1 kg and takes 30 hours to make from a precise mix of flour, butter, eggs and sugar that has been enshrined in Italian law since 2006. Continued...