Look for More Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese at Whole Foods Stores
Despite retailer and consumer concerns about the imposition of tariffs on imported foods and the resulting higher prices of such items, Italy’s Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium has signed what it calls “a landmark agreement” with Whole Foods Market to boost the presence of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (protected designation of origin) in the Amazon-owned grocer’s more than 500 stores across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
By teaming with Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods – No. 10 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States – the consortium gains increased distribution in the United States, the second-largest importer of Parmigiano Reggiano in the world, after France.
“Our agreement with Whole Foods Market is unprecedented in the history of European PDO products,” noted Nicola Bertinelli, president of the Reggio Emilia, Italy-based consortium. “Taken in concert with our work to promote authenticity and traceability, Whole Foods Market gives us the opportunity to bring Parmigiano Reggiano to more epicures in international markets.”
Under the agreement, as well as carrying Parmigiano Reggiano in its stores, Whole Foods will work to raise awareness of and provide education about the cheese for foodies and mainstream consumers alike. The grocer will launch the partnership with two annual events, each featuring the ceremonial cracking of a full wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano by an expert cheesemonger, followed by a discussion of its heritage, quality and unique attributes. Whole Foods and The Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium will also team on the creation of in-store materials to provide shoppers with more information about the cheese.
The move comes in the wake of the World Trade Organization’s decision to grant permission to the Trump Administration to impose a tax of as $7.5 billion on European food exports annually, including an additional duty of 25% on Italian PDO products such as Parmigiano Reggiano.
For more than 900 years, Parmigiano Reggiano has been produced exclusively in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena, as well as parts of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna. Always made with just three ingredients – cow’s milk, salt and rennet, Parmigiano Reggiano is aged at least 12 months, while most Parmigiano-Reggiano available in the United States is aged a minimum of 24-36 months, with no additives or preservatives ever used or needed, due to the humidity-controlled aging techniques and long aging times that result in a naturally lactose-free cheese.