Cultural Barriers in the Italian Business Arena: OCOCO Europe Company Case
Special Lectures Series
Guest Speaker: Rocio Manrique, OCOCO Europe CEO & Founder
Born in Peru, Rocio Manrique is the CEO and Founder of OCOCO Europe, a small growing company in the food and beverage industry. Back in 2011, Rocio introduced a completely new kind of beverage possibility in the Italian market, fresh coconut water in small practical 33 cl Tetra Pak containers. Although being the first one in the market had a wide range of benefits, even today she faces some cultural and legal barriers, common to other foreign businesses: Italian cooking habits and traditions, socio-cultural biases in a relationship oriented country and, strict bureaucracy and taxes.
Cooking is popularly known as one of the most important aspects of the Italian lifestyle. Tradition is key and it is clear that Italians look for products that are most familiar to them. That is why Rocio’s focus is to constantly and clearly communicate the benefits of her product, which most Italians are not aware of; coconut water has excellent natural components, including mineral, potassium, and magnesium. These characters attest for the high energy, organic and healthy qualities of this product, matching those of fruits that are more familiar, such as bananas and oranges.
While in the Anglo-American societies youth is a synonym for creativity, in Italy youth could be perceived as lack of experience. That is why Rocio’s attempt to deal with Italian distributors resulted difficult in the beginning. Both theoretical and practical experience is highly valued in the Italian culture, therefore Rocio’s focus was to adapt promotional and communication strategies to the Italian market and convince possible sellers to include her innovative product.
Lastly, it is not surprising that the strict Italian bureaucracy system was a big barrier for OCOCO Europe. The product is imported from the Philippines in big containers, which results in high tax costs and long procedures. OCOCO Europe confirms that being pioneers in the market allows the company to gain the first market share even though people generally perceive new products as risky.