Bringing iCOLTi to the table
Even if everybody’s favorite cook is still their mamma, Italians today are eating at their desks and on the go and bucking culinary traditions due to dietary needs and newly curious tastes. Add to that a world turned upside by COVID, and it’s a recipe for a revolution in food. Which means that food service giant Elior’s new fresh, flexible and varied new ready meal brand iCOLTi couldn’t be better timed. I talked with Ilaria Del Fabbro, Brand Manager for iCOLTi and Ilaria Vitale, Head of Marketing and Communication for Elior to find out more about the branding project we developed with them, starting with the acquisition that kick-started the call for pitches.
Tell me about the acquisition that started this project.
Ilaria Del Fabbro: We acquired a company called Emily Eat that has been in business for 10 years. They produce meals in modified atmosphere packaging. Before the acquisition, they sold only to companies and airports. Their product line was very B2B, with a rather specific type of customer.
With the acquisition our goal isn’t to limit ourselves but to include home delivery, supermarkets, hotels, cafés and even seaside resorts. We wanted to reshape the brand to have name recognition for the final consumer, with a more interesting name, more complete storytelling, and more appealing color palette to help them stand out from the competition on the shelves.
How does this project fit with Elior’s vision for their business?
Ilaria Del Fabbro: We’re a multinational company based in France, with a strong presence in Spain, Italy, India and the US. Working in these competitive markets means it’s essential that we’re in constant innovation. This project, as well as others we’re working on, comes from a desire not just to keep up, but to continue to be leaders, especially in catering.
At heart, we’re a catering company, and we do high-volume food service for companies, schools, hospitals, travel (particularly trains) and hotels. But with a product like iCOLTi, it means we’re going beyond catering to something closer to the dining industry.
You talked about innovation. In the case of iCOLTi, the innovation that’s powering this new product is this new MAP technology, right?
Ilaria Del Fabbro: Right. MAP, or modified atmosphere packaging, is a method for preserving food that’s 100% natural, that uses no additives or preservatives. It creates an environment with a mixture of natural gasses to prevent spoilage and extend the shelf life to up to 10 days. For example, a dish of lasagna that would normally last one or two days without this technology now has a shelf life of up to 10 days. Modified atmosphere packaging [link in Italian] is used commonly by supermarkets and food suppliers, but we’re bringing it to catering as well.
OK, so that’s the technology that enabled these new products. But what does Elior and the brand want to say about food?
Ilaria Vitale: Our goal with this new brand was to really put the emphasis not on the technology, but the food. Every meal and recipe is prepared by our chefs, and we have culinary experience going back 30 years.
Most of the new lines in the iCOLTi range make reference to Italy’s various regional culinary traditions, starting with Bologna, where the original Emily Eat is located. But at the same time we wanted to give it a fresh new look, and show how our traditions are pointing to the future. The real Mediterranean Diet, for example, has lots more vegetables, more pulses, a good dose of carbohydrates and much less meat. It’s a balanced diet that’s grounded in our traditions, and in line with what we now believe is the best way to eat.
So from this idea, how did you get to the name?
Starting from Moskito Design’s winning pitch, we worked together to develop the name iCOLTi. What we really liked was this double meaning with colto (“cultivated” in Italian) referring to people and culture, as well as food, freshness and a nod to our culinary traditions. And, of course, with a look to the future in terms of bright packaging and colors.
Italian cooking is really tied to a sense of the past, and to tradition. But how comfortably does tradition fit in a new world with the many dietary restrictions Italians have today, as well as with their increasing interest in non-Italian food cultures?
Ilaria Vitale: You’re right about how things have changed. We decided to face this head on by creating 5 different categories, that represent a range of different lifestyles, plus one more designed particularly with food intolerances in mind – it’s gluten- and dairy-free.
One of things we wanted to prove with this brand was simply our ability to create dishes for the broadest range of people possible. So, as you’d expect we have a Tradition range, but at the same time in the Specialty range, that might include non-traditional ingredients like bulgur or quinoa. And then there’s Lightness, with lots of seafood, and Wellness, which means wellness for the body, but also the planet. In all these categories we’re trying to meet all the various types of customer needs.
Ilaria Del Fabbro: In fact these categories we developed with you at Moskito throughout the various steps in the branding process. It was a real team effort between you, us and a partner merchandising agency, and Moskito was really helpful.
Elior operates all over Italy, from Milan to Palermo. How does iCOLTi cater to all those regional tastes?
Ilaria Vitale: In our Tradition range we’ve tried to incorporate the many culinary traditions from around Italy – which, I have to say, is not easy! Because in Rome, for example, Spaghetti Carbonara has to be done in a certain way or the Romans will be up in arms.
There’s a lot of work on lifestyles, and while Tradition helps us cater to different regional tastes around Italy, I would say that as a city Milan incorporates most fully the entire range of these culinary lifestyles, including Wellness and Lightness and others. So there, and the other big urban areas, what helps us meet demand is the sum total of all the different products.
How did the launch go?
Ilaria Vitale: On 16 September, we launched iCOLTi via a webinar on our virtual Food Academy platform. We have an actual physical Food Academy, which is a meeting point for our chefs, suppliers, clients and the public, but given the realities of COVID we’ve moved the platform online. For the launch we were joined by Angela Frenda, a chef and award-winning food journalist for Corriere della Sera.
The context for the launch is a survey that we conducted about lifestyles and flexibility, particularly in our current context when we’re all working from home.
You mentioned flexibility. What does iCOLTi have to say about flexibility in the time of COVID?
Ilaria Vitale: Even pre-COVID, flexibility was at the heart of our vision for iCOLTi, but it’s more important than ever. From what, where, when and how we eat, whether you’re at work, at home or on the go, flexibility is key. You can eat your meal on the spot, take it home, and it has a longer shelf life so it stays fresh until you need it.
Something else we launched is the branded refrigerated cases that we designed with you at Moskito. They can be installed in business lunchrooms or even small workplace kitchens, and people can pay and use a unique ID to open and retrieve their meal. We’ve started to roll these out [link in Italian] and will continue in future months.