Italian people love gelato. After all, who doesn’t? The real question is: can Häagen-Dazs kill the Italian gelato?
When Italy won the World Cup in 1982 I was only 9, but I remember that day very clearly for many reasons. Milano was incredibly hot, everyone was celebrating, screaming for joy, flooding the streets. All the cars were jammed disorderly, but people did not care, which is strange in an ordered and clean northern Italian city like Milano once was.
Some people were jumping on the car roofs, squared-off monochromatic old Fiat’s, waving the tricolore national flags, something you see only when our national football team wins. Not even on national holidays. But the best memory of that day, was my young and strong father buying me and my sisters a blue gelato each, just like the colour of our team’s jersey.
Italian people love gelato. For people like me, born in the ’70’s, it brings black-and-white memories of summer holidays, school off, shorts and tank-shirt, no socks, sandals and a 500 Lire’s nocciola (hazelnut) and pistacchio cone. For our sons, the privileged relationship between Italian people and the beloved gelato doesn’t change. Of course they get some more flavours, but surprisingly the most popular combinations are still unchanged. Panna and ciocciolato, nocciola and pistacchio or limone and fragola have always been in the top 10.
I travelled for work for quite a long time, and understood how popular Italian gelato was, only after speaking to enthusiastic people. I tasted foreign industrial ice cream before my friends back home knew that Häagen-Dazs was not an Ikea sofa .
From the beginning i really thought Häagen-Dazs was a great, new, different ice-cream, but definitely not gelato. Even Italian gelato confezionato of mass production is ultimately a sort of gelato. It has no cookie crumbs, dough, pralines or macademia nuts (macademia what? my mum would say).
The business trajectory of American ice-cream in Italy was short and difficult. As you can see in this map, there are no Häagen-Dazs gelateria’s in Italy, a unique white island in a fully colonized Europe. You can find the brand only in some supermarkets and not all the flavours.
I often travel to Japan, where they have a beautiful delicate green tea maccha ice cream, very simple and delicious, in line with the Japanese idea of food. With my biggest surprise, I discovered that in Tokyo there are 4 Italian gelateria’s of the Italian chain Grom, a recent start-up, born in 2003 by the simple idea of two young ice cream makers of preparing gelato with natural ingredients. In ten years, starting with a loan of 60.000 euro from their parents, they built a small gelato empire of 45 stores in Italy and some in Japan, the US (New York and Malibu) and Paris, worth 16 million euro a year. Not bad.
So the answer is no, Häagen-Dazs, despite doing a good ice cream, will not break down the network of 200.000 gelateria’s in Italy. at least not now. I just hope the Italian team will win the Football World cup just one more time in my life, only to feel the need of buying a blue gelato in a hot summer in Milano.
Related words Italian people love
- Cialda – Wafer
- Vaniglia – Vanilla
- Cannuccia – Straw
- Coppa – Cup
- Gusto – Flavour
- Gelataio – Ice-cream man
- Crema – Cream
- Cioccolato – Chocolate
- Fragola – Strawberry
- Cucchiaino – Teaspoon