Everyone knows Mr. Bistefani – the great expert of the ancient recipe of Krumiri biscuits – who in a famous TV commercial argued with the pastry chef Carlo about the perfect balance between costs and the product’s highest quality (“Who do you think I am? Santa Klaus?”).
Only few people know that in fact he was not the inventor of Krumiri but the beneficiary of a pastry chef’s invention who in 1878 invented in Casale Monferrato the legendary biscuit with the typical curved shape in honour to the moustache of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. That was Domenico Rossi, whose invention is documented in a letter dated 4 December 1890 signed by the then mayor of the Piedmonts small town, naming him as the “one and only inventor of Krumiri”.
Since then many things have happened, but the leadership hasn’t been changed. The present owner of Krumiri Rossi company, Annamaria Portinaio, states that “here in Casale everyone knows that the smell of the original, traditional Krumiri comes from our own laboratory” and adds “The recipe is secret and a patent does not exist”.
Mario Emmi, an expert of Industrial Property of Brevetti Turrini Firm in Florence, affirms that patenting a food product “is possible where the food product obtained is able to solve a technical problem in a creative way, such as the case of food products which have been made highly digestible thanks to particular processes of processing/preparation”. In our case the product “derives from a simple recipe which mixes high quality but generic ingredients, hence there is no innovation but ‘only’ an excellent product”.
The cover image of Krumiri Rossi is a registered trademark worldwide. The difference between the patent of a recipe and the registration of a trademark (or, such as in our case, of the whole box) is wide. The patent is applied to an industrial invention; it is an exclusive right, guaranteed by the State, thanks to which a temporary monopoly of exploitation is conferred.
The brand is a sign which identifies the products of a business, distinguishing them from those of the competitors.
Following the registration of a trademark, the owner acquires the right to exclusively exploit the brand, preventing others from using an identical or similar sign to his brand.
The brand Krumiri is not registered because it is of common domain. The theme is fascinating for specialists. Sometimes the name of a very famous and widespread product is not registrable, so it cannot be of exclusive property of a single subject but it becomes a common good. There are several examples: the words Fohn and Thermos identify hairdryers and thermal drink containers.
Before becoming a common name, Fohn was the name of the product’s inventor, the same goes for Thermos, used for the first time in the 40s as the products’ name of Thermos GmbH.
A similar case is Petit Beurre biscuits, invented in 1876 in Nantes (France) by Louis Lefèvre-Utile, and now used by many producers to identify that specific type of biscuit.
Certain legendary products’ names that are part of history remain property of the company, even though the name identifies a whole, wider category. Massimo Temporelli organized an interesting exhibition on this theme entitled Ma®chi da Diziona®io: “The adhesive tape and the ballpoint pen are common, everyday use objects. Even if we do not realize it anymore, we commonly use the names of the products invented by the companies in order to identify the products themselves. In this way, the ballpoint pen becomes Bic and the adhesive tape turns into the easier term Scotch”.
We underline the fact that the two mentioned biscuits – Krumiri and Petit Beurre – share the same characteristic of a name that now stands for a category. The product’s strength lays therefore in the brand name and not in the product’s name. Moreover the recipes, secret but somehow similar, identify the territory of origin, becoming a common good used by several businesses.
Typical food products use the image of the territories of origin and bring back their success, as in a mutual exchange. If an exceptional recipe coming from a specific territory becomes a success for a food company, the company will give back its success to its territory that allowed it to take the “first step” towards success.
The marrons glacés remind the German Swiss that the inhabitants from Ticino are quite good in the processing of chestnuts. The expert in the business is Sandro Vanini company, founded in 1871.
Vanini is seemingly very successful, that much that it has recently opened a new laboratory in the surroundings of Rivera. The text of light-sign on the highway says: “Specialty from Ticino”.
It is a classical example of a generic product (marrons glacés were defined as the “bread of the poor”) deeply linked to the territory. Because of the presence of chestnuts, people from Ticino learnt how to process them and the success is even confirmed by countless local traditional recipes.
An evaluation on who counts the most between a company brand and the territory is difficult and maybe even useless. Between the two there is an “agreement” which is sometimes regulated by an origin brand.
The “Ticino Brand”, promoted by the Union of Farmers, has gained much attention in the Ticino area. The quality of the products marked by such brand goes beyond the mere but very important common origin: they are symbolic products.
It is common to ask to a new encounter “which are the specialties from where your homeland?” Someone will answer “a kind of pasta”, another will say “a liquor”, people from Ticino have “everything that lays under the Ticino Brand”. Vanini uses the Ticino Brand for the mustard of vegetables produced for Migros.
The brand of origin must therefore fulfil two fundamental tasks: 1) from one side it must avoid that one producer damages the Country of origin of the product, hence the other producers 2) it is a fantastic, and also very “democratic”, marketing tool: the big ones help the little ones.
Minor producers rely on their territory as a major marketing tool: they benefit from the virtuous production ecosystem of other businesses and they are interested in producing in the country of origin of the recipe. If Vanini produces its marrons glacés in Ukraine, or if one day the name was modified, losing its Italian linguistic origin, everything would change. If, for example, the name turned into “Vaninonsky”, the reliability of the brand would be much different.
There is a logical connection between the success of products and the memory of a territory. Very rarely a successful product’s history is not linked to its territory. For this reason smart businessmen pay attention to the maintaining of a strong relationship with the origin territory of their goods, also preserving recipes that otherwise would get lost.
As said, the producers must pay attention not to commit mistakes, and the bigger and more famous they are, the higher is the risk. Moreover, the origin brands must me protected in a serious and wellarticulated way.
Do you remember the blue mozzarella cheese “typical” from the city of Caserta? Every newspaper featured pictures of the blue mozzarella cheese, which was the effect of a particular mould. In the first place the damage was attributed to some “tricky games” of the local producers, but the information was soon rectified. In fact, that mozzarella cheese had been produced in Germany with improper proceedings and ingredients, but worst of all it had been labelled as if it actually came from Caserta.
The image damage was enormous as the consumers have a long-term memory and people make often confusion, have other things in mind and, as a result, remember only a newspaper title but not the contents of an article.
by Mirko Nesurini, CEO GWH Swiss SA