Truffle in the world: interview with Gian Marco Urbani

Truffle, an excellence telling the world about the roots and evolutions of a timeless culture. Gian Marco Urbani leads us to the discovery of a product that is a symbol of Italianness.

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170 years of history and more than sixty branches in the world: how can you manage the legacy of a company like Urbani Tartufi, and what is most appreciated about truffle worldwide?

— In our case we are talking about a family business existing -as mentioned- for more than 170 years, so I think my generation is lucky to manage today something with such an important history, marking a path that must be respected and valued. What we can do -together with our sons and grandsons- is giving Urbani Tartufi a print that from the past and tradition will able to shape its present in a modern key and, most of all, to respond to the current world at its pace, following the markets’ dynamism and the consumers’ changes. So, I’d say that evolution –as it has always been anticipated by our grandparents and parents- is still our goal; reading the dynamics of the world around us, interpreting it and, whenever possible, anticipating it.

Truffle in general, today, at an international level, it is no longer exclusively perceived as a luxury market; truffle, anywhere in the world, is now an experience of rich culture and tradition, two values entailing much more than a precious ingredient or dish. The existence of the Truffle Museum in Scheggino represents this sense of historical seed of something that, also abroad, is lived as a fundamental identity of our world, making an excellent product -as truffle is and is perceived on the world market- a fascinating symbol of timeless Italianness. —

What are the main markets for truffle and which are the ones you are aiming to for the future?

— Today the world of truffle is living one of the best times of its history and it is known, globally, in all the most evolved markets. We cannot take it for granted, if we think that not so long ago -10/15 years ago- in various Countries of the world and even in some areas of Italy, many considered truffle a confectionery product instead of a fruit of the earth. The European and the American market have always been our strong points and we intend to reinforce our identity there, but the fact that our company has so many branches all over the world is a sign of the same interest from very different markets, both from a cultural and from a gastronomical point of view. Truffle can be intriguing, fascinating for its own nature, engaging all the senses in an unexpected way.

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More specifically, today’s Asian consumer seems to be experimenting a beautiful Western disease, especially caused by the highest targeted excellences. Consequently, there is no doubt that Countries like Japan, for example, are proving to be very rewarding for us, but this market opened more than 60 years ago.

Today, the entire South East Asia is attracted by the typical Italian products and excellences, including the food compartment. Therefore, our attraction and attention towards these Countries is absolutely alive. —

Considering the international food culture differences, have you ever experienced prejudice against truffle? And, if so, how did you overcome them?

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— Truffle’s demand in the world has risen enormously and according to how much it is known today. For this we surely have to thank the Internet and the communication tools it has provided to spread, deepen and define a correct knowledge of this product. In fact, even if we at Urbani – but also many Italians- take the pleasure of truffle for granted, it’s not the same for everyone. Beyond personal tastes, it can happen to face some prejudice. We usually deal with it with the will to understand the reasons of certain unpleasant experiences or opinions.

For example, we realized that often many products existing on the market do not comply with seasonality, as well as with quality requirements. Urbani, beyond having the entrepreneurial experience to guarantee excellent truffles, believes in an element to support and value: communication. Only by spreading a correct culture of the land, of the seasons and of the truffle features deriving from them, we can break barriers and prejudices. —

What are Urbani Tartufi’s solutions to the new market requirements?

— Truffle is a very complex product, because of its symbiosis with nature, earth, plants and seasons. Despite this inherent complexity, it is a natural, simple product and today we are offering transparency to the consumer, also working on the clarity of our labels. The new Filosofia Naturale (i.e. natural philosophy) line actually marks a return to the origins, thanks to natural, unprocessed raw materials, preserved for the market in their simplicity. However, our attention isn’t only towards product quality, but it also includes the ecosystem in which truffle is born and grows.

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Together with our youngest generations, we wondered how to guarantee its continuity, in a world where this product is less and less available – because truffle grounds have a limited life cycle, as seasons and climate conditions change. That is how Truffleland was born, Urbani’s company recreating the natural habitat of truffle. It offers consulting services before and after the creation of truffle-growing plants, and before and after the sale of mychorrized plants, guaranteeing a direct and transparent relationship with all our customers.

All we are comes from the land and its nature, and just through land and nature we can give back what we received and guarantee the continuity of an extraordinary legacy, a symbol of Italianness in the world such as truffle. —

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