Panettone has skyrocketed in popularity in Canada in recent years, quickly evolving from a seasonal staple in independent Italian delis and bakeries to a wall of colorful boxes adorning most grocery store checkouts.
Since 2020, the Italian Trade Agency has initiated the promotion of food Christmas cakes made in Italy by small and medium-sized producers have done their part to increase the popularity of Christmas cakes in North America. Add the glamorous aesthetic of panettone packaging and a designer fashion label teaming up with traditional bakeries to release their own versions, and you have the perfect recipe for holiday luxury.
At Lina’s Italian Market, a Calgary specialty grocer, panettone makes up about 60 percent of holiday gift and treat sales. The traditional Italian sweet bread, often studded with dried fruit and flavored with citrus or chocolate sauce, is so important to the store’s bottom line that its offerings have grown from 10 to 30 varieties in the past decade. When shipments were delayed or suppliers couldn’t keep up with demand during the pandemic, Lina’s started producing it itself. “There’s boxes of chocolate, there’s walnut preserves and chestnuts, but panettone is the Cadillac that sells during the holidays,” says general manager Matthew Lay.
Five years ago, Lina’s began importing cases of panettone from Loison, a third-generation bakery in Vicenza, about 60 kilometers west of Venice, that has been baking traditional treats since 1938. Orders have since grown to six trays, or 700 panettoni, which sell for about $45 each. Rai attributes the growth of such high-end options in part to real estate agents and other professional clients looking to “upgrade” their holiday business gift programs by treating clients to a Loison in a box.
The brand’s elegant packaging is just as important as its premium ingredients. Each year, artist Sonia Pilla updates Loison’s gift wrap and carton designs with botanical illustrations or drawings depicting ancient Roman motifs. “It’s a sense of occasion,” Lay said. “That’s what Italian culture is about.”
Last year, Lina’s also introduced three-Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura’s coveted seasonal panettone, a collaboration with Gucci Osteria, in a striking limited-edition tin designed by Gucci. They retail for around $300, and Rai was surprised that they sold out immediately. It illustrates how style, not just graphic design, is now linked to panettone success.
Luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has created an entire panettone collection with Fiasconaro, which was founded in Sicily in 1953 and is known for its chocolate flavors. They come in a range of tins printed with D&G’s baroque swirls. Flavor variations feature regional influences, such as candied citrus peel or local Marsala and Zibbibo wines. The D&G version costs at least twice as much as the regular Fiasconaro offering. “The Sicilians have put on their gloves and are now arguing with the northerners who makes the best,” Rai said of the fierce regional competition in the industry.
For these premium retailers, holiday planning begins at least six months before peak season. By May, they had forecasted volumes and spent the summer preparing orders for the start of production (usually September).
Shortly after the clock strikes midnight on Halloween, Eataly Toronto’s massive escalators are flanked by walls of festively wrapped bread from brands like Bonifanti, Balocco, Borsari, Vergani, Galup and Tommaso Muzzi. Since the Toronto store opened in 2019, Panettone has been one of the gourmet supermarket’s best-selling categories in Canada.
Alessandro Fucile, director of grocery for Eataly North America, said interest in Eataly’s online store has grown since then, not just in Toronto, but across the country — especially in the west. This is. Last year, in particular, saw exponential growth, with the retailer selling more than 20,000 pieces of panettone (along with the relatively simple pandolo) during the holiday season.
When the Toronto store opened, it initially had 30 different varieties from eight brands, Fucile recalls. That too blew up. This season, it has 12 different brands and more than 45 varieties. “Our focus is to offer a lot of variety and a lot of brands, some not [generally] Available in the Canadian market today,” he says of mixing famous brands from Milan and Venice with small-batch artisan producers new to the export market, such as Italo Vezzoli, an award-winning pastry chef from Bergamo. ), it is shipped close to Christmas by air for maximum freshness.
Fucile said shoppers are seeing panettone as an ideal gift as the pandemic reminds everyone of the importance of eating together and sharing good food. “The standard is a 750-gram loaf — for sharing, the typical Italian way.” But to attract new customers and cover different price points, retailers are increasingly offering smaller loaves that retail for about $5, he said. Small “panettoncino” and “pandorino”. This year, Eataly also offers gluten-free and vegetarian versions, as well as some deluxe five-kilo packs from Brera Milano. Jumbo loaves cost about $300, and, according to Fucile, “they’re bigger and fluffier inside.”
In terms of taste, panettone suppliers agree that the market has started to experiment more in the past few years, including regional variations such as chestnut or limoncello, and combinations that deviate from traditional Italian recipes, such as apricot and salted caramel.
What goes inside your panettone wrappers usually has a fascinating backstory. Antica Bronte in Sicily, for example, features pistachios because the bakery is close to an area dedicated to pistachio seeds. Famous in Italy for its delicious panettone, Pasticceria Giotto’s Christmas cakes are made at the Due Palazzo prison bakery in Padua through a project to train prisoners to become pastry chefs.
But the value of eye-catching packaging should not be underestimated. “Brands are trying to keep the iconic graphics of their brand, and if they opened in 1944, they’d keep that aspect. Some are hand-decorated. More and more,” says Fucile. “As well as the quality itself, it’s also about presentation.” As a result, most of Eataly’s products are hand-packed rather than in the protective cardboard boxes you might find in a supermarket.
When we chatted in September, David Mattachioni could tell me without hesitation the date he planned to start an intensive baking program for this year’s 1,000-loaf batch of panettoni, which he sells for $40 a loaf at his two eponymous stores in Toronto. Priced to sell. “I’ve been worried about the panettone season since April,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. We’ve got our schedules, ordered our flour, butter and eggs…everything!”
This is his fifth season of small-scale but carefully crafted creations, where each panettone is handcrafted. Clever packaging was part of the early strategy. Mattachioni already had a panettone carton in mind when he enlisted graphic designer Bartosz Gawdzik to create his visual identity: “If it was just cellophane, I couldn’t stack it,” he reasoned about the delicate circle. The idea was for a signature color—in this case a versatile, non-seasonal orange (“It’s like Tiffany’s blue box, you know what it is, and it’s from us”) . The graphic design features a sans-serif “M” lettering that creates a geometric pattern when centered in the window display.
Popular New York eatery Via Carota sold out of its seasonal panettone last December when famed New York graphic designer Louise Fili posted a packaging design on her Instagram feed. In addition to her brand identity work, Fili is an authority on Italy and design.She collects vintage italian fruit wrappers and handwritten letters pastry shop papers, and an archive of local signage and letter types she uses in her work.
“If it’s a well-designed package, it’s more than a panettone,” she says of the emphasis on aesthetics. “This is a gift and a object Save and keep enjoying. ’ even though they’re brand new, panettone wrappers convey some ideas of italian heritage in their visual identity. ‘Consumers buy new for design first. If it ends up tasting good, they buy it again,” says Fili. “Every food item needs to convey a little romance and of course appetite – especially Italian ones. “
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