Investigating the Future of Panettone together with Parsons School of Design

May 09, 2019

It’s easy to become obsessed with panettone, the delicate and rich Italian Christmas treat. Bakers become preoccupied with achieving a perfect technique. Consumers become hooked on its light, buterriness. At Italia Innovation, we’ve become transfixed by panettone’s ability to be a cultural ambassador.

For the past year we’ve been bringing together different stakeholders at the intersection between research, education, and practice to explore the potential of this Italian confection. Our collaboration with the Parsons School of Design’s Strategic Design and Management Masters Program is our most recent venture to understand how panettone can become a platform for cultural exchange by bridging local conscious consumption trends with the genuine Italian bakery heritage.

Parsons School of Design at New School in New York City ranks as one of the top design schools. Exploring the relationship between business and design, the Strategic Design and Management program each semester brings together students with diverse cultural, educational, and professional backgrounds to confront real multidisciplinary projects during the Integrative Studio course. This year, Italia Innovation had the opportunity to present our panettone project to the international students in the online masters program. During the 2019 spring course taught by Roxanna Zarnegar and Jonathan Rewers, 11 students from four different countries have been working on our challenge to design a panettone experience that transcends borders.

Specifically they are investigating how to internationalize the product, leveraging their understanding of their home markets in the US, South America, and Asia. Through the primary research they are doing around the world such as one-on-one interviews, online story collection, and immersive field experiences, the 11 cross-functional designers and strategists are figuring out how to create a product that is Made by Italy while being local to another country. By the end of the semester they will design a full concept and develop workable prototypes to put their research into practice.

Their work expands upon the insights we’ve gained during the Innovation Programs from our conversations with panettone makers such as Dario Loison, CEO of Loison pastry company, and Luigi Biasetto, master pastry chef. As we looked at the artisanal baking process of panettone with international students, it became evident that this product perfectly embodies the meticulous craftsmanship and the elegant complexity of Made by Italy. Then, as we looked at the larger food landscape with thought leaders such as Debra Dunn, Stanford professor and founder of FEED (Food Entrepreneurship, Education and Design) Collaborative, we understood that globalization is giving a new value to proximity in the food sector and this desire for freshness and sustainability is challenging the value of international food processors, like Italian panettone makers.

From these insights we’ve discovered an opportunity to reimagine the panettone experience. Believing in the great value that there is at the intersection between education, research, and practice to reinvigorate Italian manufacturing, we’ve involved various talents in our pursuit. The Parsons collaboration is just one step of our ongoing project. However, it’s an important one representing the bridge we’ve been able to build between Italian producers and international innovators - the key to unlocking Italy’s great potential.