Crisis-hit Italians won't forego Christmas Panettone

Tue Dec 22, 2009 8:00am EST
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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian

MILAN (Reuters Life!) - At a busy baker's in central Milan, the shelves full of Panettone cakes are fast emptying.

All day long, a flow of Milanese and tourists has streamed in to buy the dome-shaped, fluffy cake studded with raisins and candied fruit, a staple on the Italian Christmas table.

"It would not be Christmas without Panettone," pensioner Ermenegildo Rossi, 62, said as he purchased his 1-kg cake.

"This is a must for every Italian."

Italians may be spending less on Christmas gifts this year, but they are certainly not cutting back on the sweet stuff, with makers of the festive treat saying sales are up on last year as crisis-hit consumers seek comfort in tradition.

Market leader Bauli, which bought fellow brands Motta and Alemagna this year, has registered a 15 percent increase in orders from last year.

The group, which has a 40 percent market share and also is diversified into year-round production of croissants and biscuits, will produce 35 million Panettone and golden Pandoro cakes this Christmas. Those sales represent about half of its annual revenues, seen at more than 400 million euros ($572.2 million) this year.

"Panettone is like an anchor in Italy," Chairman Alberto Bauli said.   Continued...

<p>A worker arranges a display of Panettone cakes at a supermarket in Rome December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>