The food and beverage industry, sector's leading of the domestic manufacturing in 2013 reached a turnover of 132 billion euro, an increase of 1.5% compared to 2012. The sector develops more than 26 billion euro of exports, and counts 385,000 employees and nearly 6,900 companies with over 9 employees.

The result in 2013 was achieved mainly due to exports: despite the major setback in consumption (-4%) and the decrease in production on an annual basis (-1%), exports achieved a good performance. The attenuation of the thrust of depression in the last quarter and the estate of export and employment's levels compared to other sectors are hoping for a turnaround, already in 2014, for a sector still solid despite the crisis and ready to take advantage of the recovery of the international markets.

The food sector consolidates its role as a second manufacturing industry in Italy after the engineering industry, but mostly confirms new growth potential, thanks to the 10 billion euro per year that the sector invests in research and innovation.The growth in exports is a new demonstration of the value of the sector and a confirmation of the growing trend and of absolute importance also in Expo's optical. However, it still remains a highly fragmented market, with exports still significantly below other countries, although growing, little-equipped for the challenges of the future.

It should be noted that although 51% of the Food Italian companies has ongoing or already completed, internationalization activities, obstacles remain: today the new consumers are won in emerging markets and these are the most difficult to reach for our small businesses which were affected by heavy disparity with foreign competitors from the point of view of the cost of labor, energy, lack of infrastructure and poor access to large-scale distribution channels.

The food sector must, therefore, focus on its key points to recover and set up a good strategy to restart. Businesses require the creation of a Food System thanks to the aggregation and the ability to network, while taking advantage of their diversity and fragmentation, elements of wealth of the Italian territory, to reduce the size gap with companies in other countries.

In support of national companies, it should be noted, however, that the food sector has become, in recent years, a real strength of the Made in Italy, thanks to valuation strategies that aim to the origin, to the method of production and consequently on a quality that integrates in itself, goodness, authenticity, a guarantee of safety, salubriousness and origin: all conveyed by the brand that becomes a key factor of competitiveness.