Thailand: Food Service Industry in a snapshot

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.


Let’s start with a BtB-oriented article about one of the most interesting country in SEAsia, Thailand. The Thai food-service industry offers a lot of opportunities to food producers as we will see later in this article. In order to better understand the full picture I’ll provide a very simple country overlook, a specific food-service snapshot and a practical conclusion.


2018 Population: 69 million
2018 GDP: 505 billon USD
2018 GDP x capita: 7,445
2018 total import of consumer products: 5 billion USD
2018 total imported Italian pasta: 5,450 tons


The foodservice business in Thailand is keep growing at a 5% pace YoY in a country that, despite some political instability, can still count on solid economic basis, mainly due to tourism industry. Tourism accounts for roughly 12 % of the GDP and in 2018 the Ministry of Tourism registered 38 million international tourists confirming Thailand as one of the best tourist destination in the world. The occupancy rate is one of the highest in APAC slightly above 70% for the 5000 hotels and resort spread nation-wide and including more than 100,000 restaurants. In big cities like Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai the competition is fierce and offer is massive, the most popular restaurant choices are Japanese, Korean, Chinese and of course Italian. It‘s interesting to note the split of the main visitor nationalities , being:
Chinese for 28% , Russian 6%, Malaysian 5%, South-Korean 4% and Japanese also 4% . For Italian food, there are plenty of good choices, and real Italian food, cooked by Italian Chef with traditional ingredients can be easily found in all the main cities, especially Bangkok. Local consumers are more and more educated and the sales of Italian products are rising also in retail and ecommerce thanks to the visibility gained in restaurants business; for the e-commerce, the opportunities are countless considering a very young 66 million population that commonly use mobile phone ( we will dedicate an article to both retail and e-commerce business ) . The most important yearly food-exhibition, Thaifex, became the expo reference in the South-East Asia with rising number of visitors and expositors.


The numbers of importers selling to HRI (hotel, restaurant and institution) is steadily increasing due to the strong expansion of the food service in the recent years. More and more are focusing on quality imported food: meat-based and seafood are still the most attractive categories, but also the most difficult ones in terms of regulations and of course logistic. A good occasion to meet-up with pro players is to visit Thaifex .


Thailand is a strategic market in APAC and still haven’t expressed all its potential. Even though it is a price oriented market for commodities and low-end products, it offers room for real premium imported quality food. The HRI business is expected to continue expansion for the coming years especially through hotel segment and a proper sales volume for Italian brands must be sought in this channel. See you all at Thaifex in 2020 Fellas !

Pesto Gnocchi : how to prepare a wonderful dish in less than 5 minutes

You may prefer “alla Sorrentina” or with ragù, in any case Potato gnocchi is an evergreen Italian classic, everybody knows.

By using the right products, it’s definitely possible to prepare at home, in less than 5 minutes, a delicious and tasty dish, in a simple , easy and practical way.

Let’s see how to prepare it :

The ingredient : no doubts , buy the best and keep going with De Cecco potato gnocchi , pesto and EVO fruttato. As I’m writing from Melbourne , I have asked Chef Michele from GenobileSaba to help me with everything

Step 1 : pour the pesto in a stainless steel mixing bowl .

Step 2: add some EVO. De Cecco pesto is produced 100% with EVO but you can add some . I strongly recommend Fruttato, a fruity and smooth EVO that perfectly pairs with Pesto .

Step 3: when the water is boiling , pour the Gnocchi . Remember, it takes only 2 minutes to cook them!

Step 4 : pour some of the boiling water in the stainless bowl, just a little and stir it till the consistency of the sauce is creamy enough.

Step 5 : pour the gnocchi in the bowl with the pesto, stir properly and consistently until sauce and gnocchi are well mixed.

Step 6 : shred parmigiano on top, and add some fresh basil if you wish. De Cecco pesto is produced with real aged parmigiano reggiano but definitely you can add some on top when the dish is ready .

Step 7 : serve your wonderful dish prepared in less than 5 minutes !

As usual , keep eating only the best, no doubt that De Cecco gnocchi , evo and pesto are the best you can find on the market !



This week let’s analyze some key figure on Chinese retail overall business, a sector that increased an average of 10% a year in 2017 and 2018, overcoming 6 trillion USD total revenue. Astronomic!

The total import of consumer oriented products had an even higher increase in percentage terms achieving 45 billion USD (up approx. 20% VS 2017). Here below to the split for country of origin:

Italian export volume is accounted in “others” block, but how was the export of Italian pasta and EVO ( two of the most iconic and recognizable made in Italy products ) performing in the last few year? these are the official figures 2012 – 2018:

Pasta basically have tripled the volume since 2012 , consistently growing YoY except in 2018 while EVO had a clear roller-coaster path due to the volatility cost of the raw material. This is a very clear indication of how price-oriented China market is, especially for this kind of “niche” categories.

In terms of modern-trade the situation is very peculiar, with few important trends to be well evaluated, such as :

– Rise of second-tier cities (on top of the list Chengdu, Nanjing, Suzhou, Qingdao and Xiamen);

– Digitalization still heavily expending, in particular for food sector: in 2018 the number of online food orders through Alipay/Wechat/Applepay basically doubled reaching an impressive 11 billion transactions;

– Convenience-stores are the top performers among brick-and-mortar retailers and they are consistently improving the food offer;

– Big traditional hypermarkets are losing market shares and a relevant number of POS closed during 2018;

But who are the main national modern-trade players? Here a brief description of the top 10 :

1. China Resources Vanguard (www.crvanguard.com.cn): China Resources Vanguard with over 3,100 POS. Vanguard, Suguo, Vivo, Ole’, Legou Express, Vango, BLT, Voi_la!, Lenonardo, Huanleshong, Zhongyi, Huarun Tang are all VANGUARD banners. The most premium supermarkets in their portfolio are Ole’ & BLT, roughly 80 POS through the country.

2. RT-Mart (www.rt-mart.com.cn): Retail chain originally from Taiwan with more than 400 stores; in 2011 they joined the French group Auchan. The penetration strategy of RTmart was particularly brilliant as almost 70% of their stores are located in second-third tier cities.

3. Wal-Mart China (www.wal-mart.com.cn): By far the largest international retailers, Walmart it’s price and neighborhood community oriented. High-end consumers are targeted in SAM’s CLUB (www.samsclub.cn).

4. Yonghui (www.yonghui.com.cn): big players with more than 1200 stores and pioneer in OtO. In 2015 the leading online platform JD bought 10% of YH shares. The high-end banner is BRAVO , 50 stores currently operating in the country.

5. Lianhua: this chain recently faced hard time due to poor management leading to big sales drop in 2017 can now counts on 3370 store in multiple formats mainly located in eastern region.

6. Carrefour (www.carrefour.cn): second biggest international player counting more than 300 stores and a high-end format called Le Marche.

7. Wu-Mart: counts approx 700 stores, mainly in North China targeting middle to lower- end consumers.

8. Bubugao (Better life, http://www.bbg.com.cn): 550 stores mostly in second and third tier cities, some of them in high-income areas targeting high-end consumers with imported products.

9. Metro: (www.metro.com.cn) : hybrid concept BtB & BtC with approx 100 stores, half of them in the East. Metro developed good own-brand lines and recently launched its online mall at http://www.metro.com.cn/onlinemall .

10. Hema: (www.freshhema.com) Brick-and-mortar spin-off from Alibaba focusing on fresh products and fully automatized supermarkets. Nowadays can count on more than 150 stores.

 The top sales categories are common through all the supermarkets and include :

– Fresh Fruits: import of fruits from all over the world in 2018 overcame the impressive figure of 64 million tons ( top suppliers Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand ) .

– Pork : China population consumes 28 million tons of pork a year with and imported pork accounts less than 10% ( top suppliers Germany , Spain and USA) . Interesting to see the real impact of the recent swine fever outbreak. Beef and poultry are also heavily rising in pro-capita consumptions achieving respectively 4,8 and 1,1 billion USD import value in 2018.

– Diary : the consumption of diary is relatively flat however only 18% is accounted in imported products.

Italian products have a good potential as depicted in previous statistics, however it’s good to be aware that our categories are not the top-demanded ones and only few Italian brands have access to all the channels including food-service, traditional retail and e-commerce.

Stay tuned as soon we will specifically talk about e-commerce, subscribe the newsletter and keep eating only the TOP !

Pasta double-cooking: simple and practical guide to double-cooking best practice

Any Chef knows very well how to manage a proper double cooking process for his pasta dishes but I guess a simple and practical guide would be appreciated especially among the non-professional audience .

But in fact, what is double-cooking? Double cooking is a culinary technique that allows a faster preparation of the orders due to a pre-cooking of the selected pasta. In brief, depending on the pasta type, the normal lead time can be above 15 minutes especially if you use a quality brand ( as a rule of thumb, given the same shape, the longer is cooking-time the better quality is the pasta brand ) and in food service this is definitely a too lengthy waiting time

For this reason pasta can be pre-cooked, usually for half of the time it would normally requires, stored in a proper way, and revived just on demand with simply 60 second additional cooking.

This process is very common and broadly used among PROS, but it’s very important to state that not all the brands perform the same and the difference in final result can be massive. One more time, the better quality is the pasta the better is the performance in double cooking, avoiding pasta stickiness and micro-breaking.

Here are 6 simple standard steps explaining how this process works :

Step 1 : Boil the water. Pasta needs sufficient water, ideally 1 Liter every 100g, it’s important to respect this proportion in order to avoid that pasta stick together.

Step 2 : Add salt. Once pasta is boiling add salt and immediately after add the pasta. It’s commonly thought that the best ratio is 7gr of salt for 1 Liter of water.

Step 3 : Respect the timing. After approx 1 minute in the water it’s better to slightly stir the pasta, and keep stirring in regular interval. The better is the quality of your pasta, the less you need to stir it up. Refer to the table here below for the cooking time ( every different pasta type has a different pre-cooking timing ) based on De Cecco pasta, arguably one top performer brands in double cooking.

Step 4 : Chill the pasta. After the pasta is properly drained proceed spreading the pasta in a classic gastronome tray . The size of the tray depends a lot on the type of pasta you are preparing however a classic GN1/1 : 530 × 325 mm it’s usually suitable. It’s very important not to pile the pasta but keep it evenly spread as much as possible. Add some olive oil on top just to maintain the content of the tray well preserved and seal with cling film .

Step 5 : Store your pasta. Ideally in a blast-chiller but if no blast-chiller is available the best solution is to let the pasta cools down at room temperature and then store it in the fridge .

Step 6 : Revive your pasta. Pasta is now ready to be revived any moment, just put it in boiling water for 60’’ ( follow the table @point 3 ) and in one minute you’ll have a perfectly cooked pasta .

Double-cooking is definitely a key in modern food service especially now that pasta popularity is crossing over any kind of restaurant concept. By following these simple steps it is possible to serve an amazing pasta dish in just few minutes, requiring just a little bit of planning and most important, a good pasta brand!

Keep eating only the TOP !


The differences between a premium and low-end pasta are important and often this gap is underestimated both on consumer and professional side. Let’s be simple, clear and brief about that and identify what really makes a premium pasta.

1) RAW MATERIAL: It probably appears obvious but the raw material is the first step of any production and without premium raw material there won’t be any premium output. It’s better to immediately state that Italian pasta has to be produced only by DURUM WHEAT FLOUR, and the Government strictly control over this aspect.

2) SEMOLINA: When we talk about durum wheat flour it’s also important to understand that from the durum wheat milling, different quality levels of flour can be obtained: the top one is called SEMOLINA and it’s the flour used to produce pasta, then we have SEMOLATO also used to produce pasta at a lower level followed by the normal flour ( for bread ) and 2 more kind of flour used for non-human consumption.

3) BRONZE / TEFLON EXTRUSION: at the end of the production line the pasta-producers may invest huge amount of money in a bronze die plate that gives to pasta a rough and porous surface allowing pasta to better keep the cooking and most important to properly absorb any sauce VS a cheap and life-lasting Teflon plate leaving the pasta smooth and far from the coarse effect obtained from bronze die extraction.

4) LOW TEMPERATURE / HIGH TEMPERATURE DRYING : pasta comes from dough, which is prepared mixing flour and water and so at the end of the production line is wet and has to be dried. In an industrial environment, there basically are 2 ways to finalize this process, a low-temperature/product-respectful way and a high-temperature/burning-product method. The final output is completely different and it’s visually immediate to identify premium and low-end pasta.

There are tons of other differences between a premium product and an average-low-end one but these are the most important and intuitive. You want to know something more about these aspects and how a real premium brand manages all this?

This is what De Cecco, the number one high-end pasta producer in the world, does:

– Raw material: De Cecco is selecting the best raw material since 1886 and no other producer can ensure more stability and top quality in this aspect. Before grinding the wheat is tested at any level of the supply chain and must pass the most strict and rigorous laboratory test to arrive on consumer plates.

– Semolina: De Cecco only use Semolina flour for its production, very coarse grain in order to maintain the central part of the wheat and an extremely high gluten index. De Cecco only uses <65% of the wheat, while average-low-end producers are above 90%.

– Bronze die: no need to say that the production is fully on Bronze die.

– Low temperature drying: the drying process in De Cecco can take till 36 hours, 3 to 5 times the time required for a low-end producer to complete this process. The respect of the product result in an output that basically has the same white color of the flour used to produce it.

– The X Factor: De Cecco prepares its dough with pure cold spring water , at a temperature less than 15° to ensure a perfect maintenance of protein level. As stated, the water is natural spring water as the factory is based in the amazing location of National Park, Parco della Maiella, a unique and uncontaminated venue.

When you eat Italian pasta, think about these points: it’s very easy to claim to be a premium brand, but as a matter of fact only few can be really identified as what they claim to be.
Now you know why.
Keep eating only the top !

Francesco Maioli

Japan Food service industry , a top market for the premium brands

Japan has always been a key market for Italian premium brands but it’s confirming his strategic role with great performance in Food Service industry .

The overall Japanese food service industry increased in 2018 for the seventh consecutive year also due to the boost in non-Japanese restaurant sector .

Similarly to Thai situation , tourism is a key factor for a country that passed from 8.5 million tourists in 2012 to 32 million in 2018. The best performer in APAC .

Imported Italian Pasta volume is almost 3 times bigger than the second biggest market ( China ), with annual imported volume ranging from 66k to 75k tons in the 4 years . Consumer is mature and oriented to quality-products, in fact being De Cecco the absolute leader both in retail and food service .

General restaurants are the biggest part on total restaurant sales followed by sushi & noodle shop ( both of them very traditional and rooted in the consumers’ culture ) .

Probably the most interesting opportunities are coming from the expansion of HMR sector ( home meal replacement ) . More and more convenience-stores and retailers are offering HMR in a variety of recipes . Local taste is still absolutely dominating but more HMR based on Italian pasta are already generating really interesting figures .

The most important national food exhibition is Foodex held in March ( 2020 ) 10 to 13 .

Keep following grocerya for more info on APAC retail and food service distribution !