Pastificio Rana, the American dream continues to grow
From the outskirts of Verona all the way to Chicago, the Pastificio Rana, an iconic name in fresh pasta, is growing by 13% each year, on its way to exceeding 800 million euros in turnover. More than one-third of that comes from the U.S. market.
Everyone in Italy remembers the famous commercial with tortellini king Giovanni Rana saying “We are all one big family.” And that’s still true today. The company from San Giovanni Lupatoto, outside Verona, has brought fresh pasta to the tables of Italian families and has gone on to serve as an ambassador for the “made in Italy” label throughout the world.
Ceo Gian Luca Rana, the son of artisanal pasta maker Giovanni and leader of the Pastificio for more than 30 years, has managed to shape the company on a national level and take it abroad by focusing on innovation. With its brand internationalization strategy, an innovative production process, and diversification of its product range, today the company has almost 3,500 employees and eight facilities.
The experience in the United States, which began in 2012, has transformed the Veronese company into a multinational enterprise.
Only six years since Rana launched in America, the entire category of fresh pasta in the United States has grown by 30% per year. Testifying to this success, in 2018, IRI and Boston Consulting Group for the second time mentioned Rana as one of the top-five companies seeing the greatest growth on the U.S. market.
The Pastificio Rana ended 2018 with turnover exceeding 700 million euros, and this year, the company expects to come close to 800 million.
Of this amount, about 300 million euros comes from the U.S. market, and the company from Verona, which was founded in 1962, believes this will only increase. In the last six years, the brand has doubled in sales and tripled its EBITDA, taking its products to 58 countries throughout the world.
Mr. Rana, let’s go way back. When did you start at the Pastificio Rana?
I started at my family’s company when I was 21, in 1986, when it was a smaller, more artisanal operation with seven products distributed only in Italy, with 35 employees, and 30 billion lire in turnover.
How important has innovation been in the growth of the company?
I would say it has been fundamental, an ingredient that serves as a foundation for all of our products. I created the research and development centre: an incubator for ideas in order to create new products, new recipes, and new ranges like the filled gnocchi. It was also a way to revitalize dormant markets like fresh sauces. My philosophy is “First you come up with the idea and then figure out how to make it happen.” This is what has inspired the study and development of machines and production process that are all patented by us.
International expansion began in Europe and then you took a big leap: conquering America…
In 2012, we opened our first facility on American soil, in Chicago. The objective was to make and sell pasta, sauces and fresh Rana products directly in the United States. This was a dream of my father’s as he always wanted to expand outside of Italy.
Why the United States and not Asia?
Because the American market had and has an Italian tradition because of all of the immigration, and still today, Americans recognize the value of Italian flavours and things made by the Bel Paese. Then you have to consider the size of the country and opportunities for growth.
This is important for maintaining double-digit growth…
In terms of production, the United States has surpassed Italy. We should reach 500 million in sales in the U.S. by 2021.
What other markets are you in?
We have branches in France, Spain, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and the United States. There are eight facilities, with five in Italy, one in Belgium, and two in the United States. We are in 58 countries around the world, from Brazil to Chile to Australia to Japan.
You are in restaurants as well as being sold in large retail stores. What are your plans for development in restaurants?
In 2007, we came up with the Ristoranti Rana idea, with the main objective being to make fresh pastas and sauces available outside the home as well. This means being in direct contact with the consumer, contact between those who buy and those who produce. The restaurants we own allow us to have constant, daily feedback on what we are making, and it serves as a “test kitchen” for new dishes, recipes, and flavours that may become retail products on the shelves one day.
Today, the chain has 23 restaurants in Italy, one in Berlin, and more will open in Europe and throughout the world. The tests we have carried out are very promising.
The family still has complete ownership of the Pastificio Rana. But you are a company that is open to the market. Do you think a stock-market launch is in your future? If so, which one? Milan or New York?
At this time, I think that, with the parameters we’ve set and the way we are running the company, a stock-market listing could be more of a limitation than a help. In the last 20 years, having a hierarchical structure that is not top-down has allowed the company to grow by 20% per year on average. I want to be free to reward employees, for example, which I’m doing this year. Having said that, never say never. If we decide to take that big leap, the market could be another big challenge.