Founded in 1978 in Florence, Probios, based in Florence and now present in 43 markets worldwide, can be considered one of the pioneers of organic farming in Italy: it began producing without the use of pesticides even before the industry was regulated by a specific standard.
Nowadays, it has specialised in healthy free-from and protein-organic products, made from raw materials that are mainly Italian. Renato Calabrese, CEO of Probios and board member of Assobio, gives us an insight into the company’s strategies.
– This year you celebrate 45 years of activity. How can you assess your experience?
Probios was founded with the aim of making health-beneficial organic food available to a wider number of people. Over time, in order to pick up on new consumer trends to please consumers with specific dietary needs, we began to specialise in gluten-free, low-sugar, high-protein and, in general, clean-label foods with the minimum possible number of ingredients. We are now the main Italian player that is able to combine organic production with these health values.
– Which sales channels do you use to sell your products and how important is your presence abroad?
Probios products are sold via several channels. We naturally started out in specialised shops. Then we entered the pharmacy sector, because there was a growing demand for gluten-free products, which we already had in our catalogue. We are now also in the large-scale retail trade and online: we sell our products both via our e-shop and via various specialised food or generalist marketplaces, such as Amazon. About 15% of our turnover (in 2022 Probios reached 26.5 mln euro) comes from exports. Moreover, we are also in the catering business, not directly but through distributors.
– What do you think about the progressive expansion of the available sales channels?
The democratisation process of organic food is natural. We have experienced it from the beginning, when products were only sold in specialised shops for a limited audience. These days, fortunately, organic is the prerogative of many families, who may also consume organic, but not exclusively.
– The Positive Food label was recently launched. Do you think it is applicable to organic products?
Personally, I am strongly in favour of operations that make the consumer’s choices clearer, but it is important to understand how these operations are carried out. There is already a distinction, even regulatory, between what comes from organic raw materials and what is conventional. On the other hand, today it is quite common to refer to conventional raw materials with claims such as “zero waste”, “from sustainable agriculture” or others. These are claims that can be confusing. This kind of operations must bear in mind the difference between organic and conventional, otherwise it risks increasing confusion.