Food Trends in Italy: Consumer Insights and Preferences

See how different food and beverage categories within the Italian market are developing

July 1, 2024 – Italy, renowned for its culinary heritage, is experiencing a notable shift in food and beverage consumption. From the rise of plant-based alternatives to the enduring love for fresh, local produce, here we provide a comprehensive overview of the Italian market. We will explore how consumer behavior and food market trends are driving forces behind developments within each food category.

Beverage Consumer Trends

Italian consumers are showing a slight shift away from traditional alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and spirits, with a growing interest in non-alcoholic alternatives. However, Italian consumers are still more likely than the global average to purchase these traditional alcoholic drinks. This shift is driven by health concerns and a desire for healthier lifestyles. In general, a relatively small percentage of consumers are changing their alcohol consumption habits.

Italian consumers are particularly interested in local sourcing and traceability when it comes to beverages. This is especially true for beer and wine, where traceability is considered above-average in importance.

Italian food trend research indicates that consumers are much more likely than the global average to purchase bottled water, and this food trend is still increasing rapidly. 29% more consumers in the past year say that they have purchased bottled water. Health is the predominant driver for consumers purchasing more bottled water. Additionally, juices, energy drinks, and iced coffees and teas are all seeing increased rates of purchase from Italian consumers in the past year.

Hot drinks like coffee and tea are seeing a slight increase in consumption, driven by changing lifestyles and the growing popularity of afternoon tea. Ethical claims, such as fairtrade, are also gaining importance for Italian consumers when purchasing hot drinks.

Everyday Staple Trends

Italian consumers prioritize freshness and local sourcing when it comes to bread and cereals. While bread is a staple in many Italian households, it is consumed less frequently during breakfast than in other parts of the world, with lunch and dinner the preferred occasions. Freshness is a key attribute for bread, with 61% of Italians citing it as an influential factor in their purchasing decisions, compared to 49% globally.

Dairy products are another important category of everyday staples, with Italians again showing a preference for fresh and local options. They tend to eat more cheese than the global average but drink less milk. Freshness is the most important attribute for cheese and yogurt consumers, and is the second most important for milk, after cost. Traceability and organic claims are also an important food trend for dairy product consumers.

For meat and fish foods, Italians place a high value on sourcing and traceability. Interestingly, they are less likely than the global average to be influenced by protein claims, instead prioritizing sourcing over everything else in both meat and fish. Environmental considerations are also important for consumers who are cutting back on their meat consumption.

Food Trends in Italy

Meal Preparation Consumer Trends

Relatively few Italian consumers are changing their intake habits of meal preparation products, with the exception of ready meals; there has been a slight spike in consumption of ready meal products in the past year. Consumers who are cutting back on meal preparation products cite health concerns and changing lifestyles, with consumers opting for complete foods instead of additions. However, younger generations are embracing convenience, with Millennials and Gen Z leading the food trend of increased ready meal purchases.

The key drivers for purchasing meal preparation foods are a lack of time for cooking (45%) and increased variety on the shelf (36%). Cost is also an important factor.

When it comes to specific claims, Italian consumers prioritize natural ingredients and fat reduction. They are less concerned with sugar, fiber, and protein content compared to the global average. Traceability and ingredient sourcing are highly valued, reflecting a lack of trust in general statements and a desire for evidence of quality.

Snacks and Treats Trends

Italian consumers are increasingly health-conscious when it comes to snacks and sweet treats. While they generally exceed the global average in terms of purchasing desserts and biscuits, they are also less likely to buy sugar confectionery and cakes. Taste and variety are key drivers for increasing intake, but health concerns drive consumers decreasing their intake of snacks and treats.

When it comes to specific claims, in cereal bars Italian consumers prioritize low/no/reduced sugar, low/no/reduced fat, and high-in/fiber options. They also show a strong preference for locally produced and traditionally made products, in desserts and ice cream.

Plant-Based and Special Diet Consumer Trends

Italian consumers are increasingly aware of and interested in plant-based and special diets. While purchasing rates of these products are slightly below the global average, there has been a significant increase in the past year of consumers claiming to be increasing their intake of these products. One in three consumers of plant-based or sports nutrition foods claim to be increasing their intake.

Health is the primary driver for purchasing plant-based and special diet products, with environmental benefits being a close second. 48% of consumers cited health as the reason for buying more meat alternatives, while 45% named environmental reasons.

The desire for healthier options is also evident in the strong interest from Italian consumers in sports and functional nutrition products, driven by higher levels of exercise and a focus on lifestyle choices. However, there is also a growing awareness of plant-based and special diet products and brands, suggesting a potential for further growth in this market.

What’s Next in Food Trends in Italy?

Italian consumers are increasingly focused on sourcing and traceability, seeking products with recognizable origins and certifications like PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and TSG (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed). This preference for local and traditional products is a key food trend for brands to leverage.

Freshness is another crucial factor for Italian consumers, who value chilled and minimally processed foods. Brands can capitalize on this by emphasizing “fresh” attributes even in processed products.

The demand for reduced fat and sugar content is growing, indicating a focus on healthier options. While “better-for-you” formulations are already popular, there’s potential for brands to innovate with unique, high-priced, and healthier options.

Finally, younger generations are driving a demand for variety and novelty, seeking convenient and experiential food and drink choices. Brands can focus on innovative tastes and formats to cater to this adventurous demographic.


This article is based on our report, “Category Growth Drivers in Italy.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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