Having become a market leader in Italy after just a few years in business, Gian Luca Rana sees internationalization as the winning strategy to grow his family’s business on a global scale. Over the course of 15 years, Rana has become a leader in 28 European countries. Employee numbers have increased from the tens to two thousand, and the brand produces more than 100,000 tons of fresh pasta, with every bite full of love and passion for what it does. But Gian Luca is not stopping at Europe. He began the journey to achieve his American dream, the conquest of the most difficult and challenging market there is: the USA. Breaking into the US market requires a great deal of innovative and organizational effort, cultural mediation and, substantial entrepreneurial risk. However, according to Gian Luca Rana, Italian companies have more than one ace up their sleeves. “The ability of medium-sized companies to establish and react to new conditions is incredible, an asset that sometimes we don’t take into account. We are robust and have local roots and family tradition, but we are also internationally appealing. This competitive advantage should , convince entrepreneurs to at least try to tackle a foreign market as unbelievably rewarding as the USA.”
2012 was a milestone for the development of the company. That year, Gian Luca Rana designed, built and opened the first Rana factory in Chicago, and furbished it with the most modern technology in the world of fresh pasta. Pastificio (‘pasta factory’) Rana landed in the USA with enthusiasm. But nothing happens by chance. Gian Luca Rana had spent the previous three years travelling around the country to gain an understanding of the culture, needs and dynamics of a complex market, different than the European one, with distribution models that are profoundly different from Italian ones. He took a hands-on role in the launch of the fresh pasta manufacturing facility that was designed and opened in record time. Work began halfway through 2011; after three months the DOP (protected designation of origin) basil pesto was born, and after a further four months the first Rana tortellini saw the light of day. In just seven months, Gian Luca Rana had created a new company that employed 150 people, and which now has 600 employees.
“The American market for stuffed pasta was flat for years, and there were even some important supermarket chains that were starting to think of cutting the products from their shelves. The rules had to be broken, and quickly. We focused on Italian style and on craftsmanship, changing the packaging and recipes. From a plastic tray we moved to the stand-up pouch, a very difficult piece of work that resulted in the creation of patented packaging. Alongside this, we created a new range of products designed with the American palate in mind. Americans like pasta stuffed with crunchy components, e.g. cheese with diced bacon, and for this reason we designed machines capable of producing super smooth fillings that still incorporate delicious crunchy pieces,” says Gian Luca Rana.
From the launch of production in the USA, growth has been rapid in all three channels: Retail, Club, and Food Service. One of the critical success factors for Pastificio Rana in the US market is the ability to capture the mass distribution sector. Just six years after Rana entered the USA, the entire fresh pasta market has grown by 30% annually, after sales had been stagnant for the previous 15 years. The American chains give Gian Luca Rana credit for this. May of 2019 will remain an unforgettable date for the extended family in the Lupatoto pasta company, employing 3,500 people worldwide. Rana became a market leader in the US too, where it achieved a turnover of 300 million. What’s more, a new facility, two and a half times bigger than the first, is under construction. This is Gian Luca’s greatest source of satisfaction, along with the accomplishment of employing 600 people and the intuition of Rana’s Restaurants. “All of this was possible thanks to an amazing team that believed in me from the start: not just in my dream, but in the same values. We all care about creating a company that empowers people to achieve the futures they aspire to.” Product quality and a strong spirit of adaptability are the pillars of an effective strategy to approach the US market. However, these alone are not enough. You also need to have courage that comes only from a profound passion for your work, and from the desire to always surpass your limits, day after day, recipe after recipe, in order to be successful in the USA. This is Rana.