Italian Family Businesses Conquering Asia

Italian businesses that succeeded in expanding in Asia
Mar 30, 2021

Many of the Made in Italy’s excellences have a common attribute: they are family businesses. According to European Commission, in Italy, there are approximately 184,000 family businesses, representing Italy’s economic engine.
In an increasingly global market, the future of Italian family-run companies is through foreign markets, a compulsory way to grow. The importance of expanding abroad is indisputable and many Italian family-owned companies have accepted the challenge.
Strategic expansion is difficult and not always successful; below is a review of some of the Italian SMEs that are worth mentioning for their strong expansion performances.


The Lavazza coffee that we drink today comes from the idea of Luigi Lavazza, who combining coffees from different parts of the world opened the first store in Turin in 1895.

The big company we know today was created in 1927 in the heart of Turin with 1.5 million Lire and the effort of Luigi Lavazza, his wife Emilia, and his three children Maria, Mario, and Giuseppe, who conquered the province of Turin with a fleet of vehicles.

Lavazza has always been a pioneer: in 1957 they created the first roasting industry enabling them to process over 40,000 kg of coffee a day that was spread around the city through the first auto bar.
However, its success was spread farther and wider than the streets of its home city and today the 126-year-old Lavazza has a strong retail presence across Asia and also supplies coffee beans to independent cafes.

Last year, the company entered a joint venture, to expand the coffee shop concept in China and created a blend exclusively for its Chinese consumers: Bel Paese Coffee. The blend uses historic espresso recipes and local interpretations, to offer flavours from different regions of Italy.


Venchi is one of the most famous Italian chocolate brands. Venchi started more than 140 years ago, with the passion for chocolate of a 20  years old man from Turin, Silviano Venchi.

He was so passionate about chocolate that he invested all his savings on two bronze cauldrons and began to experiment, first in his apartment and later in his own chocolate shop in the heart of Torino. There, he created the famous “Nougatine”, a heart of chopped PGI Piedmont hazelnuts coated in pure dark chocolate.

The company grows rapidly and at the beginning of 1900, Venchi was recognized as the most elegant praline shop in Piedmont.

But Venchi is not only known for its quality chocolate. In 2006, Venchi acquired the know-how of an advanced ice-cream production system and launched its own retailing format, called “Choco-gelateria”, in which both chocolate and ice-cream are sold.

The expansion of Venchi in Asia started in 2003 in Hong Kong,  and today it has 45 Asian points of sales across Mainland China, Hong Kong,  Macau, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Venchi describes itself not only as a “Made-in-Italy” brand that can be experienced through its ingredients but as an “experienced like in Italy”. In fact, in each boutique, you can breathe the Italian atmosphere thanks to the elegant, and colourful design, as well as product storytelling.

Panino Giusto

Nothing is more Italian, popular, and at the same time democratic as a panino. This represents the basis of the brand’s idea born among the old buildings of Milan in 1979: transforming such a simple food into a great experience enjoyable all over the world.

The passion of the two owners, Antonio Civita and his partner Elena Riva drove Panino Giusto to expand internationally and count 33 locations across Europe and Asia. Panino Giusto has stores in Italy, Geneve, Paris, London, Tokyo, Yokohama, and Hong Kong, 550 employees, a revenue of 35 million euros (2019) and 1,5 million sandwiches served.

Japan has been particularly receptive to the gourmet panino: the brand opened four shops in Tokyo, one in Yokohama, and is considering opening other locations soon.


Cantine Ferrari

Giulio Ferrari founded the company in 1902 dreaming to create a wine in Trentino capable of competing with the best French Champagnes.

However, 50  years later, since he had no children, he began looking for a successor, and he met Bruno Lunelli, owner of a wine shop in Trento who later succeeded the founder pursuing excellence in every detail.

If we can attribute the invention of Trento DOC to Giulio Ferrari, Bruno Lunelli is certainly the one who made this wine great and determined its success on the market.

From the 1970s until the early 2000s, Bruno Lunelli was succeeded by his sons Franco, Gino, and Mauro. During these years were launched, the Ferrari Rosé, Ferrari Perlé, and Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, the products that enable Cantine Lunelli to become the leader in the classic method, transforming a small winery into a veritable colossus of enology.

Today, Ferrari sells 5,5 million bottles per year exporting sparkling wine to more than 70 countries including Japan which is the number one Asian market for Italian wineries.


The Italian premium furniture manufacturer Natuzzi is one of the best-known lifestyle brands worldwide. The made-in-Puglia brand combines design, function, materials, and colours to offer harmonious living.

The story of Natuzzi began in 1959 when Pasquale Natuzzi, at 19 years old, decided to start his own company and opened a workshop where he began producing hand-made leather armchairs and sofas.

Pasquale Natuzzi rapidly expanded his business, moving the production of Natuzzi leather furniture to Matera and later, to Bari following a fire that completely destroyed the Matera factory.

After being hit by misfortune, the Italian manufacturer experienced a long list of successes: they participated in the late 1970s in a furnishings fair in Bari which allowed Natuzzi to increase its export market in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. However, the turning point came in the 1980s, when the Natuzzi leather sofa entered the American market. This was just the beginning of the Natuzzi’s escalation abroad. In fact, in 2018, Natuzzi expanded its retail network in Greater China forming a joint venture with a Chinese distributor. Today, the lifestyle brand counts over 500 stores, 200 of them only in Greater China.


Furla was created in Bologna in 1927 by Aldo and Margherita Fulanetto, as a leather goods company, and has played an important part in Italian fashion history.

Italy represents a vital part of Furla DNA using the country’s finest leather to create the luxury Italian quality the fashion world loves. Italian brand Furla is the pioneer of the ‘inclusive luxury” concept. According to Furla, everybody should be able to have access to high-quality products at a fair price.

Its values of Italian craftsmanship combined with accessible luxury allowed men and women all around the world to experience the traditionally made Italian leather goods.

The Asia Pacific is the brand’s new powerhouse. The reason for brand success in China was the ability to take advantage of the two main Chinese digital channels, WeChat and Weibo, to promote its brand image and build loyalty among existing customers.

Take a look at the retail trends in Asia for this year and reach out to us at should you need any assistance in creating your strategy.


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