so we increase revenues and land in Germany -

so we increase revenues and land in Germany -

Alberto Bertone says: "I just drank a bottle, I reduced the consumption of red meat and so I can integrate proteins". Expands by diversifying with "protein" water the entrepreneur from Vinadio, majority shareholder with his family at 57.5% (the rest belongs to the Osella family) and CEO of Sant'Anna which sells 1.5 billion bottles of mineral water a year. It launched in the last few weeks the bottle with 15 grams of protein and zinc, 33 centilitres for 2 euros, medium-high consumer range: «It's being tested at Esselunga, we'll soon be bringing it to the rest of the large-scale retail trade as well, in discount stores, in Autogrills – he says -. There is a strong demand for foods with proteins: pasta, yoghurt, milk. Supermarkets are building dedicated islands. We cater to three groups of customers: sportsmen, those on a low-protein diet who need to supplement, the elderly».

New markets

Furthermore Bertone wants to expand abroad and after the French market, launched last year with the Casino supermarkets, is now probing the German one, even if "entering distribution across the border is not easy". Too many barriers, she claims. «It's tough in France but we are continuing – he says -. For Germany we have hired a sales manager who is familiar with local large-scale distribution, but it is difficult for an Italian company to open a market abroad without operational support, as the French have. The competition is tough. We need local buyers and common warehouses, the logistics bases in the countries as well as diplomatic relations».

The bills

Bertone plans to increase the revenues of Acqua Sant'Anna this year, despite the drop in general product sales in the last months of 2022, which closed with 302.8 million in revenues (from 292.6 million in 2021, with 45.7 million in profit, and 277.7 million in 2020, with 46.9 million in profit). “The consumption of mineral water is recovering – he says – e our revenues should increase by 10-15% also thanks to the new protein water».

The "novel food"

The optimism comes from the fact that the consumption of protein foods should go up a lot. «In novel food, the segment of alternative proteins to those of animal origin deserves a separate chapter – says a 2022 report from the Mediobanca Studies Area -. Worldwide, by 2035 it will go from the current 2% to 11% of the total protein market, worth around 290 billion dollars». Therefore, if the Beauty & Wellness line of Sant'Anna, launched in recent years, today "is worth about 10% of turnover", Bertone is clear: "We want to increase". It means making volumes, as well as margins. Also because the costs continue to be high. «The price of energy is going down, but it is still high compared to 2019 – says Bertone -. And that of plastic is around 1,100 euros per ton, less than the peak of 1,700-1,900 in 2022 but still higher than the 700 euros in 2019». In short, there is a gradual recovery and the strategy is to expand, for the group where exports still weigh only 5% on revenues and translate into countries such as Dubai and Malta, in addition to the new entrants France and Germany.

The acquisitions

But in all of that the entrepreneur from Vinadio has a gripe: he is unable to conclude acquisitions. Yet to grow externally as well, he "hired someone from Pwc," he underlines, and set up a team dedicated to mergers and acquisitions. For over a year he has been trying to take over a similar company, "a source of good water", he says, even abroad to make it easier to sell on local markets: "Acquiring a competitor is the lever to enter, or you are always a foreigner in someone else's land". There has been no result so far. «We are interested in companies in Italy and in the rest of Europe says Bertone. We are looking at more dossiers, but it is difficult to find who will sell». Moreover, Sant'Anna itself is not available for external entrances in the capital: "We don't need a shareholder," says the managing director.


So how do you grow? New products are being designed, such as protein water or those of the Beauty line, launched in recent years, with collagen and hyaluronic acid. And it diversifies, because the systemic crises of the last three years have taught us one thing: the "mono" strategy has waned in the new economy. The single-product, single-supplier concept no longer works. We takethe case of carbonated water. Sant'Anna had had to reduce its production due to the lack of carbon dioxide after the post-Covid closure of Yara in Ferrara, which sold the C02 to Air Liquide, its supplier. The problem has been overcome but "it could reoccur", says Bertone: "We are diversifying our suppliers".


Meanwhile, consumption is also changing. “People no longer store, they don't keep so much goods at home – says the CEO -. Once the 3x2 worked in hypermarkets, now you only buy what is necessary». In the general uncertainty, the "value of the family" remains for Bertone. It is also intended for employees to whom Sant'Anna, among the first to give anti-inflation bonuses last year, now offers counseling with a psychologist, lessons in economics and finance, courses on proper nutrition. Because "those who feel good in the family feel good about themselves and at work".

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