Making Italian salami in Nanjing

Marketplace Staff Apr 24, 2008


Lisa Napoli: Look for the price of rice to go up — again. Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, announced the cost per ton surged to $1,000 today. That’s almost triple the price per ton at the start of the year. Some Thai traders say it may reach $1,300 hundred dollars before long. This may be good news for Bangkok rice dealers, but not it’s so good if you’re buying it. In the U.S. this week, retailers such as Sam’s Club and Costco were starting to see signs that people are stocking up.

In China, thoughts are turning to a whole different kind of food group.

Matteo Gonella: The art to make a salami is have good meat, good recipe and then dry.

Jamila Trindle: Matteo Gonella has a passion for making salami. And to make it in China, that’s exactly what you need, he says — passion and patience. He’s standing in a meat locker in Nanjing surrounded by hundreds of pounds of drying meat from his factory.

Gonella: This is the braseola. That is salami.

Gonella spends most of his days moving between his office and the factory floor. Wearing a white lab coat over his pin-striped wool suit, he’s personally overseeing quality control.

Gonella: Like a flow chart — yes or not? If it is yes, we go home. If it is not, we stop — “Why is not? Who is the fault? What’s happened? Who make what? — like that .

Gonella and his company Fratelli Beretta, are among a growing number of foreigners coming to China with new products to break into the massive Chinese domestic market. James McGregor, author of the book “One Billion Customers,” has watched things change over the last 20 years.

James McGregor: Everybody came in here to manufacture for export, but their real dream was the domestic market. And China tried to get them to manufacture for export and keep them out of this market, but step-by-step foreign products have invaded China, and they’re doing very well.

But will the Chinese consumers develop a taste for salami?

McGregor: Remember they used to say: Chinese people don’t eat cheese; they don’t like cheese. Well, walk down the street and look at all the Pizza Huts. Yeah, they’ll accept salami.

Outside Nanjing University, students line up at food carts. And a few were willing to taste salami.

Woman speaking through translator: The flavor is a little strong, but China is full of people with different tastes.

Matteo Gonella in the middle of building a bigger factory is betting that at least some of them will learn to like salami.

Gonella: When the people taste, I’m sure that they like.

In Nanjing, I’m Jamila Trindle for Marketplace

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