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The Italian spirit and Italian products have always been highly appreciated abroad and, as regards the food sector, it is well known how much the value of Italian cuisine is recognized all over the world. Italian food, together with French and Spanish food, is the most popular (Brand Finance Food & Drinks, 2021). However, as much as they appreciate Italian cuisine, foreign consumers struggle to recognize the difference between a food produced in Italy and a food with just an Italian name. This is the renowned phenomenon “Italian Sounding” (literally: “Italian sound”) which, according to data collected by customs in the last year, has caused damage of over 100 billion.

Italian Sounding: what is it and why it is so widespread

By Italian Sounding we mean the use of names, logos, colors and even slogans that recall the Italian spirit and which are used to push the sales of products that actually have nothing of Italian. This phenomenon affects various food categories: cured meats and cheeses, wines, preserves, up to pasta, sauces and oil. For example, among the most imitated Italian cheeses we find Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, Mozzarella di Bufala, Gorgonzola, Grana Padano and Asiago; among the cured meats there are San Daniele ham and salami, among the wines there are Prosecco and Chianti.

How important is the threat of Italian Sounding?

According to Coldiretti, there are several countries that copy Italian food, including: the United States and Canada, Australia, Russia, Germany. Analyzes on this phenomenon have shown that more than 2 out of 3 Italian products, in reality, have no real ties with Italy. However, it should also be specified that it has been estimated that only 10% of Italian Sounding is made up of products that can be identified as completely fake. All the others are products that recall Italy but which are easily recognizable for a foreign consumer as non-Italian. Therefore, consumers abroad are unlikely to be fooled, instead it happens more often that they purchase non-original “Italian” products in full awareness (the American Parmesan is an example) and that they do so because they do not perceive the difference with real products. Made in Italy. Sometimes, the mechanisms of the various distribution channels have some conditions of sale that are not very advantageous for the small-medium sized producer, who therefore needs to save on the purchase of raw materials. This can affect the final product, with the consequent risk of bringing lower quality products abroad proposed as “Italian excellence”.


In some cases, this phenomenon negatively impacts trust in foreign consumers. These, in fact, failing to perceive the difference between an Italian product and a product that “sounds” Italian, choose the latter because they perceive it as of similar quality but with a better price.

The solution: return to exporting only quality products

This situation, unfortunate as it may be, highlights the large margins of growth that Italian exports abroad could record, if one operates in terms of protecting the manufacturing companies and increasing the perceived value of Made in Italy products.