He was born 44 years ago in the far north of Italy, in the little mountain village of Cortina d’Ampezzo (capital of the Winter Olympics of 1956). He lived in Treviso, not far from Venice. where he owned a wine bar and restaurant.
In the mid-nineties of the last century, he founded a chain of ice-cream cafés in Moscow, St. Petersburg and a number of other cities (under the chain name “Gelatissimo”). The products for them came from his own production facility, set up in Sergiyev Posad, near Moscow. Two years later all the cafés in Russia were sold.
In 2015, on the basis of his property in Sergiyev Posad, he opened an Italian café in Moscow, in Bolshoi Tolmachev Lane. It made a profit in its very first year.
He has been living permanently in Moscow for more than five years. He is married, with a daughter aged six.
In Moscow, as in any megalopolis, the ice cream market is huge. Dozens of manufacturers make mass-produced ice cream. Even so, the ice cream produced comes in a great many varieties, in various price brackets. For example, we make Italian ice cream exactly the same way they do in Italy, with fresh ingredients, by hand, according to the recipes of the rather well-known Signor Dondoli of San Gimignano, world champion in producing Italian ice cream: gelato.
Before opening a gelateria, I tried many of what they call in Moscow “Italian ice cream”. And I realised that there is ice cream based on ready-made mixtures, delighting the eyes with its bright colours and flamboyant form, there is expensive “crafted” ice cream with flavours, let’s be honest, for the enthusiast, and there is affordable ice cream which is hardly going to excite the professional. Up until recently, there was absolutely no real Italian gelato in Moscow. And it is still a rarity now.
From my own experience, I can say that in order to open a gelateria producing ice cream in Moscow requires approximately 200,000 euros. The recoupment period for such a business though, that depends on the quality of the product, and on the abilities of the staff, and on the marketing strategy, and on the location of the premises and number of customers… And on many, many other things.
Italian gelato – like pizza some time back – is now taking over the world. All sorts of festivals, and contests between the best gelaterias take place in Australia, and in America, and in India. This unique Italian product has huge potential in terms of both gastronomic discoveries and sales. After all, everybody loves ice cream!
If we are talking about ice cream entering the Moscow market, I would recommend considering several factors. First, one should bear in mind that there is a large degree of “traditionalism” involved in the preferences of consumers over 30, which determines the style and choice on sale on the high street.
I am not sure that entering the market and making sales via this traditional channel is a recipe for success: on the street, at the kiosk counters, the customer is looking for a quick and familiar option. Yet, a fundamentally new flavour also gives a boost to the brand-name.
If it is a matter of sales inside a large shopping centre, then there, something which really grabs the customer’s attention is called for. Therefore, a new ice cream could be presented as part of some kind of performance: blending, aeration, so that there is something to see when you are buying it.
Costs of opening a small ice cream stand in Moscow in places where large numbers of people congregate (shopping centres, cinemas etc.) start at 600,000 roubles a month. In the first place, this is outlay on rent, equipment, ingredients and expendables, staff wages, as well as on tax and electricity. Recoupment periods vary from 3 to 9 months, depending on the season. One should bear in mind, especially, that takings in winter will be almost half. There again, you could start off with a franchise. In any case, initial investments vary around the 1m rouble mark.
A low price remains a factor for success under the enlightening BTL programmes on trade in hypermarkets, tastings, and familiarizing customers with new brands.
These days, health concerns are very much to the fore. Ice cream is fats and sugar, and there are few products on offer meeting the demands of an ever-growing, increasingly health conscious market. In other words, forward-looking distribution, plus ice cream sales through drugstores are a good strategy for positioning a new brand as a healthy, cold treat.