All I want for Christmas is shiny lights, golden ribbons and the fragrance of a billowing, toffee-hued, chef’s-hat-shaped mass of sweet bread, with creamy insides studded with raisins and citrus peel.
Panettone – one of the most beloved and recognizable Italian symbols for Christmas – has long overcome national borders and conquered an international profile, breaking out real disputes between purists and ultrapurists, traditionalists and modernists, and, of course, between Italy and the rest of the world. Now that panettone’s reputation has risen, so have the stakes for Italian bakers, who are jockeying not only for ownership of that tradition, but also for market share. Several competitions have been organized to set the standards for the most famous leavened bread in the world: Panettone world Championship (not to be confused with Coppa del mondo del Panettone), Panettone Day in Milan, Panettone duel in Parma, Artisti del Panettone competition etc. Starting from 2022, even Japan's Panettone Appreciation Society has held its first competition, this latter being only one of the many evidences of the success that panettone is gaining in Asia. Every year, more and more Asian bakers try themselves in cooking this delicious but highly difficult bread: for example, ALMA Bangkok Pastry chefs and Otto e mezzo Bombana in Hong Kong propose their in-house panettone stuffed with candied orange and raisins. Panettone’s preparation often takes days and days of work, and that is why it is also known as the “mount Everest” of bakery.
The export of Italian panettone and pandoro is worth approximately EUR 500 million. It’s a business which, in the last year alone, has grown double digits.
According to Confartigianato, an association that protects and promotes the productive heritage of Italy, the countries that most appreciate the typical Italian Christmas sweets are mainly European, but China and Japan interest is also growing.
“In a certain way, Panettone symbolizes a bridge between Italian and global taste.” says Filippo Cassabgi, co-founder of Virgilio Creating Value, the consultancy firm operating as a branch office in Asia for western brands. “We are currently developing a new project with Tre Marie, a milanese bakery brand with more than one hundred years of experience in panettone production. Tre Marie is distributed in mainland China, Thailandia, Hong Kong and Taiwan: each panettone will be accompanied by red envelopes dedicated to Chinese New Year of the Dragon. We are convinced that the panettone’s use of luxury ingredients such as butter, eggs and candied fruit makes its consumption ideal for festive occasions – not only limited to Christmas.”