From Rossano to the world: the secret to success for Amarelli

When it comes to excellence in Calabria, one immediately thinks of Amarelli, the historic company of Calabrian licorice that has managed to combine tradition, innovation and development bringing the name of our region to the forefront in domestic and international markets.

Amarelli is not only a fascinating story dating back to 1731, over the centuries enduring crisis, wars, poor economic environment and social disadvantage, but for us Calabrians, stands a model of family business where passion, ability and desire of individuals to continue century old traditions have made the difference. The extraordinary strength of this company that involves children and grandchildren, all successful professionals in internationals sectors – but not in everything – in the world of licorice, and representing that, as a woman, is Pina Amarelli who with determination, humility and devotion, leafing through the archives of her husband’s family, was able to understand the potential of the company… involved for generations in handing down an art, that is in fact the production of licorice. This is the true secret of Amarelli: look ahead, innovate, without ever severing the thread of the past.

The author of the new chapter of Amarelli is she, Pina, wife of Franco Amarelli, Professor of Roman Law at the University of Naples. Neapolitan in origin, she arrived in Rossano at age 22, after a brilliant academic career and a dream almost reached: to become one of the first women judges.

So her story begins as she responds to our first, almost obvious question: How do you become successful entrepreneur here in Calabria?

“It happened by chance” – she says with disarming humility that whisks you away at just meeting her. “I had thought about becoming a magistrate. It was 1963: at that time women were not allowed to pursue this career, but we were aggressive.” Her thoughts turn to her companions of the past, today established professionals and their common struggle. A fight ending positively. “It was enough just to have the skills to aspire to the profession.” And she proved it: she enrolled in the race to become a judge, but to not disappoint the expectations of her father who wanted her to become lawyer within a year of exams lawyer, working in the family practice at the same time studying at the University.

A brilliant career and then … you moved to Calabria?

Actually I travel a lot. When I arrived for the first time here there was nothing to do. So I began to look at the family documents with my father-in-law and my brother-in-law that directly followed their father’s work.  It was he who started the restructuring of the company in the 70s inserting new equipment. He began to renew the marketing strategy… We found some boxes from 1937 amongst family objects and we learned that in Germany they were already producing recyclable boxes. I had the idea to apply old labels with historical images of the company. That was how the pack was born.

The story Pina Amarelli tells seems so natural. The idea of the pack had conquered the world, the ability to move into the global market, the project of the Museum of Licorice which now has about 40,000 visitors per year and is, according to research conducted by the Italian Touring Club, the second most visited specialty museum in Italy after Ferrari and the first listed for specialty museums in Calabria on TripAdvisor, and still many prestigious awards achieved, the partnership with Eataly, collaborations with major companies for the transformation of licorice in many products …but behind all of it there is a commitment and a willingness to understand, diversify, and above all a solid leadership that notice immediately upon entering the headquarters of Amarelli.

Pina Amarelli never speaks in the singular, identifying herself as a part of the company that is now managed by her nephew Fortunato. A figure cut out for this role, having carried out specific studies.

“We are a family that believes in freedom of choice,” she says, revealing that this is the secret of success. This success is not only in traditionally worked licorice – standard machines don’t exist, these (machines) have been designed ad hoc and are the result of experience in the processing of liquorice and of studies and research in the field of innovation – having roots in knowledge and culture. This is demonstrated by studies carried out by the members of the family and the specialization of Fortunato at Loyola University in Chicago. Investments in culture have enabled the company to innovate without giving-in to becoming a public company.  A choice made many years ago and crowned by the decision to become part of the historic agency, “Association of family businesses,” a pursuit that follows their activities, training, and the empowerment of the members of the family businesses.

“Who has the desire to make his way, can do it, even starting from Calabria,” is the message of Pina Amarelli who supports the importance of learning “the art of living Italian” and she confesses:

“I am in love with Calabria because it has a little more virginity than other regions.” The still rawness of our land could prove the winning formula, but it’s enough just “to have ideas and maintain your identity.”

It is precisely those ideas that have enabled Pina Amarelli to identify herself with a difficult territory, giving new life to the family heirlooms, creating innovative marketing around a brand that is now a true international brand while becoming a storytelling enthusiast who sees in the plot a wild plant, licorice, which has in Rossano its ideal habitat and a family loyal to its artisan craft.

Today the story of Amarelli is a story of success – we invite you to visit the site to discover the many awards and prizes we’ve achieved, – of innovation – the company has adopted new technologies, launching into e-commerce to be current in the global market, and with great results.  From 2016 we will become part of, as we have already announced in our article, Fattoria Italiana Contadina di Eataly.

The future?

To strengthen the roots with our territory and expand what the Museum can offer.