Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gelato Still A Well-Kept Secret in the U.S.

Italians have indulged in the rich, intense taste of gelato for centuries, yet one in two Americans haven't even heard of the creamy frozen dessert, according to a new poll of 1,000 adults nationwide.

Gelato Master Wants to Turn on Americans to Gelato

It's that lack of awareness that brought "Gelato Amante” (Gelato Lover) Marco Casol to the United States in 2002. In many ways, Marco is the soft-spoken embodiment of the romance and charm that are quintessential Italy. He is a native of the region in Northern Italy where gelato was first invented, and his family has owned and operated gelato shops throughout Europe for over 100 years. It's his dream to introduce Americans to the fresh taste and artisanal quality of gelato, and to spark in them a love affair with it that will ignite a passion equal to his own.

"I was basically born in a gelato pan,” said Marco, Gelato Master, president and CEO of PreGel AMERICA, the specialty dessert ingredient company that conducted the recent survey. "My earliest memories are of the scents of vanilla, lemon and coffee in my family's gelato shop, and of the smiles their tastes would bring to our customers each day.”

Like Marco, Americans understand passion. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they believe eating certain foods can elicit strong emotions. In fact, nearly one in five equated eating gelato with kissing a beautiful woman or handsome man. With beliefs like these, Marco's passion could be contagious.

"Eating gelato is like taking a delicious little Italian vacation without ever leaving home,” Marco said. "All it takes is one taste and experience to make someone fall in love with gelato and come back for it over and over again.”

Most Have Never Tasted Gelato

In recent years, gelato has been named by some as a hot trend in the United States, particularly along the East and West coasts. But despite the fact that shops offering this little taste of Italy are popping up on more and more American street corners, fewer than one in three people surveyed have actually tried it.

Of those polled who have heard of gelato, nearly half don't know the difference between gelato and other frozen desserts. What's more, two-thirds don't know it's made with natural ingredients from all around the world. An equal number of survey respondents are unaware it is lower in fat, and more than three-quarters are unaware it is lower in calories than other frozen desserts.

In fact, while most Americans choose to eat it as a snack, many Italians eat gelato in place of lunch or dinner in addition to as an afternoon or evening treat – which, admittedly, is equally due to the social experience as it is to gelato's nutritional value.

"In Italy, eating gelato is as much about the pleasure of the company you're in and where you are as it is about enjoying its delicious taste,” said Marco.

We Crave Social Experience as Much as Taste

American survey respondents – particularly 18- to 24-year-olds and those with children – agree. Of those who eat frozen yogurt, ice cream or gelato, two in three young adults and seven in 10 of those who have at least one child at home said they'd prefer to enjoy it at a shop where they could be with friends and family and have fun.

When asked which flavor they would choose if they could only eat one kind of frozen yogurt, ice cream or gelato for the next month, nearly two-thirds still stuck to the old favorites – chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla – in that order.

Seven in 10 survey respondents who've had the chance to find their favorite gelato flavor said they've done it in the United States. An equal number of those who haven't yet savored its unique, creamy taste said they'd be most likely to do so by sampling it at a local shop.

And if the American palate's affinity for Italian wine, food and specialty coffee is any indication, it might not be long before more people enjoy their first taste and gelato becomes a staple of U.S. culinary culture.

About PreGel AMERICA
PreGel AMERICA is the U.S. division of PreGel S.p.a., a global ingredient company headquartered in Reggio Emilio, Italy. PreGel develops, manufactures and distributes all-natural ingredients, toppings and fillings of the highest quality from Italy, including flavors, powders and pastes used in gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbetto and other frozen desserts. Based in North Carolina since 2002, PreGel directly sells to restaurants, gelato cafes, coffee shops, frozen yogurt shops, bakeries, pizzerias, hotels, resorts, grocery stores and universities, as well as a few distributors in the United States. The company headquarters is in Concord, N.C., just northeast of Charlotte. For more information, visit www.pregelamericacom.

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The gelato survey was commissioned by PreGel AMERICA and conducted online by Synovate eNation. The sample of 1,000 adults ages 18+ has a margin of error of + 3 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

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