Amarelli Liquorice – Interview with the Amarelli Family
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the best liquorice is a Calabrian growing. The body of this plant is feeble, however its roots are so strong and thick, penetrating so deep into the soil, that people believed liquorice came from Hell.
We had the pleasure of meeting and chatting at length with the Amarelli Family during our #idressitalian tour.
Mister Fortunato, this place is to neat and everything works so meticulously that it almost tricks me into thinking that we’re not in Calabria. How is that?
We are in Calabria indeed and we sell a very Calabrian product. Liquorice is a spontaneous root, it grows naturally here and in most of South Italy, Middle East, India and China. Calabria’s been the main producer for ages, though. Ours is a 285 year old company, it all began in the XVIII century when the global market was, well, just Europe. People from France or Germany would buy liquorice from Calabria. There is nothing more Calabrian than Amarelli liquorice. Our family settled in Calabria one thousand years ago and began trading liquorice in 1733. I believe this proves that we are 100% Calabrian.
What is your role in the Company?
I’m the CEO. I try to take care of every part of the production since I live here in Rossano, but mainly it’s just paperwork, and the financial side. I also take care of the liquorice museum, the theme park which is essential to our company and it’s one of our biggest marketing assets. In 16 years, our Museum welcomed over 50.000 visitors per year. This numbers make us the second biggest museum of the country.
In my childhood memories, men would always chew on liquorice. Now this habit has disappeared.
Well, is was a tradition from back when Calabria was a rural society to pick the roots that used to grow spontaneously. Today, society is not rural anymore. I myself used to do that! Kids would roam the countryside, they would recognize the plant and they -we – knew that we had to dig to get the roots out and suck the sweet juice.
What’s your target clientele?
We focus on Senior customers. This means adults who have already processed their taste for liquorice and they want the best one. Part of those customers are actual conoisseurs, well aware of liquorice’s varieties and their qualities: these constitute a niche market, which is our target clientele. As for today, on this planet there are 1,5 billion consumers, people who have the money to buy something. Just focusing on 1% of these people, well, it makes quite a business.
Liquorice is Amarelli’s core business. Are there other business activities?
Yes, there are. We like to diversify, with food or no food productions, beverages and chocolate. But mainly everything revolves around food. Judging from our catalogue, one might think we diversified a lot, but in reality our main business is liquorice, even more than our competitors. In the 80’s our competitors were Salia and Menozzi De Rosa (the liquorice pills known ad Tabù) but they noticed that liquorice is a niche market and gradually abandoned the field. Salia especially, they began producing every possible kind of candy, since liquorice wasn’t so lucrative, and they lost their name as producers of liquorice, they’re known for candies today. We decided to stick with our liquorice tradition, to the cost of loosing good business chances, but it paid off because today our company is the big fish in the liquorice business pond. When we created liquorice liqueur, it was meant more as a let’s-give-it-a-try and suggest a variation on the liqueur theme than starting a proper new trade. Nowadays our liqueur is made by Strega Alberti using our liquorice roots. The same thing happened with Marvis. Once you’re the name, the brand in one business, people will rush to associate their name with yours.
What is Amarelli today?
We have forty emplyees and a showroom in Naples. And seven people work for the museum. We are particularly proud of this, because culture isn’t much of a business and the government doesn’t invest in museums. Given this premise, we built our museum as a proper business. As for today, the revenues grossed one million euros and it’s proof that culture can be a business, making money educating people about our history. I mean, we live in Sibari, 20km from Thurii which was Magna Graecia’s biggest city, where Herodotus – considered to be History’s father – lived. Pitagora was from Crotone. I believe that, in the future, this will be Italy’s business asset. A day will come when Italian emerging markets will be able to distinguish their brands from Japan’s, China’s or USA’s, a moment when it will be possible to explain that Cirò’s wine is actually produced in Cirò ever since the dawn of times. This will be our ace in the poket, we need to invest in our history and culture.
Can you give any advice to those young people who leave Calabria, in search of better opportunities, feeling that their motherland failed their expectations?
We cannot ask smart, educated young people to remain stuck in a place where unemployment fell to 58%. Emerging markets will always welcome this youth. I don’t agree with the idea of born-in-Calabria-die-in-Calabria. Unfortunately, this means that here we are left with mediocre minds. The government should educate – and prove – young people that starting a business in Calabria is possible. Today it’s even easier, the dematerialisation of goods means that one needs not to invest too much money when starting a business. Moreover, we live in an era when one can sell everything from everywhere, thanks to the internet. Calabrian businessmen should use internet to their advantage. But infrastractures serve as alibis for not letting one start a new business. There are those who had successful businesses started against all odds. Scopri l’intervista a Margherita Amarelli cliccando Avanti >