Atlante, turnover target of 350 million in 2026

21 December 2023

In this interview for EFA NEWS, Natasha Linhart, founder and CEO of Atlante,shares the story and growth of Atlante, which she founded 30 years ago.

Atlante is a key partner for Italian chains, excelling in the selection, import, and distribution of global food products.The business model prioritizes working for customers, giving Atlante the freedom to choose and positioning them as allies to retailers worldwide. With 462 ongoing projects, they cater to customer needs, proposing innovative solutions and often suggesting opportunities based on their global experience.

Atlante collaborates with 170 Italian producers, and 50% of their turnover comes from exporting Italian products to various countries. Notable partnerships include the “Da Emilio” brand in Switzerland and a successful venture with Saputo to launch Cathedral City cheddar in Italy.

Linhart emphasizes high-quality standards when selecting products, showcasing success stories like a Campanian pasta producer making strides in the UK and Japan. Atlante’s special relationship with Switzerland includes a 20% share in the Migros group, providing growth opportunities and access to a multinational distribution network.

In Italy, Atlante serves large-scale retail, private labels, discount stores, and is expanding into the foodservice sector. Linhart highlights their presence in the UK, supplying coffee chains like Costa, Caffe Nero, and Starbucks. While competitors exist for individual products, Atlante stands out as a unique company covering a wide range of products.

Looking ahead, Atlante has an ambitious business plan aiming for a 350 million euro turnover by 2026. The focus is on growth in Italy, the UK, and Japan, with substantial investments in new offices, IT, and team expansion. Linhart underscores their commitment to sustainability and ethical business practices, encapsulated in the mantra “We protect, we grow, and we innovate.”

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Interview with Natasha Linhart: “50% of revenues from the export of high quality Italian foods””

Love and soy-milk substitutes were the two main ingredients: this is how Natasha Linhart, a thoroughbred Englishwoman (but Bolognese by adoption after her marriage to an Italian entrepreneur) began the adventure of her Atlante 30 years ago. And like the famous mythological character, Linhart envisioned the whole world by developing a business that today boasts a turnover of 250 million euros in turnover and was born from a rejected idea, as often happens. We meet the entrepreneur on the eve of a long trip to China and India and she herself tells how it went.

“At that time I was working for Nutricia and had built many relationships with the retail sector. With the birth of my son, who turned out to be allergic to lactose, I entered the then very expensive world of soya powder. I came up with the idea of suggesting to the company to launch a product at an affordable cost, which could also be sold at discount stores. The market was there, given the high percentage of allergy sufferers in Italy, especially in the south, but nothing happened: the group didn’t believe in it. So I proposed the idea to Alpro, whose General Manager seized the opportunity. But I didn’t have money, so they gave me credit for a truckload of goods. I sold everything in a few days, the soy drink flew off the shelves, and the credit expanded to 10 trucks… that’s how it all began, I created the company and started importing products from abroad, both for large-scale retail and for the discount channel, and here we are”.

Today Atlante is one of the main strategic partners trusted by main Italian chains for the selection, import and distribution of food products from all over the world, also active in the export of the best Made in Italy specialties abroad. “Our business model – specifies Linhart – stems from the idea of working for customers rather than producers, giving us absolute freedom to choose: this way the customer, especially the retailers, around the world and then in Italy, see us as allies rather than product sellers”.

Can you provide an example? “Let me explain. The distributor is looking for a product, even something specific like pistacchio pesto, and we offer all the various solutions in terms of quality, reliability, price, production capacity, certifications. Basically we are creators of projects: currently we have 462 ongoing projects, meaning as many products we are working on before reaching production. Always starting from the customer’s needs. And then we are often the ones who propose opportunities, based on our experience, and our relationships around the world. And we are considered reliable, given that a customer of the size of Sainsbury (the largest English supermarket chain) has entrusted us with all purchases in Italy, excluding wine and meat”.

So it’s not just imports but also exports of Italian products abroad? Food sovereignists will rejoice.

“That’s right. We work with 170 Italian producers and 50% of the 250 million turnover is Italian export: from pure commodities (tomato, pasta), then semicommodities such as pesto, condiments, appetizers, balsamic vinegar, bakery products (taralli biscuits, breadsticks, cantucci ), to specialties like capers from Pantelleria, very particular oils, and so on. In Switzerland we sell highly appreciated products under the “Da Emilio” brand, such as pizzoccheri from Valtellina or Sardinian gnocchetti. And then we distribute, in addition to Great Britain, in South Africa, Israel, the USA, Greece, Hungary, etc.”

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