Making gelato into big business

Making gelato into big business

It can be a lonely enterprise when you set up your own business, but not for best friends Guido Martinetti and Federico Grom.

In an age when many start-ups look to new technology, they turned to tradition for their business and their passion, which is food.

The two friends started their gelato business, Grom, with no food industry experience - Federico was a consultant and Guido a wine maker.

"Our mission was to make the best gelato in the world and we [didn't] know how to make any gelato!" Federico recalls.

That did not stop them though and the business has gone from strength to strength, growing from two employees in 2003 to nearly 700 employees today.

Guido Martinetti and Federico Grom on their farm Federico Grom (left) and Guido Martinetti built their business on their friendship

Many think gelato is just an Italian name for ice cream but the two are keen to point out that it is a different product.

The word derives from the Latin word "gelatus" which means "frozen", and cold desserts can be traced back through Italian history to ancient Rome.

According to Guido and Federico, the difference between ice cream and gelato is the amount of fat in the product.

"In ice cream you have an average of 17-18% of fat, but with Italian gelato you have 10% of fat," says Federico.

Farm The Grom founders buy the best manure they can find for their organic farm

It was Guido who came up with the initial idea. He thought that if they sourced the best ingredients, they could make top quality gelato.

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Federico then put a business plan together and the two decided to go for it.

The only rule they had when they started out was to stick to their guiding principle - to try to create the world's best gelato.

That has meant, for example, splashing out on the most expensive manure for their organic farm just outside Turin, in order to grow the fruit they use in their products.

"To make the best gelato [in] the world, you must have the best raw materials, and to have the best raw materials, you must have the best manure [in] the world," says Guido.

"So [you need] very ripe manure, and unfortunately, very expensive manure."

Italy's favourite frozen dessert flavours in 2013

1. Chocolate

2. Vanilla

3. Nut

4. Stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate chip)

5. Lemon

6. Strawberry

7. Coffee

8. Banana

9. Coconut

10. Fruits of the forest

Source: Euromonitor

Grom has benefited from Italians keeping their hunger for upscale gelato despite economic hard times.

According to the research company Euromonitor, sales of "artisanal" ice cream have doubled in Italy every year since 2008, outpacing growth of every other type of iced dessert by some way.

But Guido and Federico admit that business does slump in the fourth week of every month, suggesting that household income is squeezed as people wait for pay day.

Federico Grom says Italy is "the most difficult place" to run a business

Having overcome the problems caused by Europe's biggest economic crisis for many decades, the two have found running a business in their home country challenging.

"Italy is the best place to live, the best place to spend your holiday but for investing it is difficult," Federico says.

"Not really for taxation but for the cost of labour."

But the two will be heartened to know that Euromonitor see no let up in the Italian hunger for gelato in the next few years - whatever the economic fortunes of Italy.

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