The Master of Pizza, Pasta, Pesto & Co

Many say: The best Pesto in China comes from Nicola Coppi! Premium supermarkets like City Super and Olé, big brands like Nestlé and more and more restaurants trust the Italian Maestro from Modena. And they order from his company Food Vending China in Shanghai. Nicola stands for Artisan food at its best: high quality, handpicked, handmade. When he designed his 4,000 sqm factory and the office area in Pudong, VIRTUARCH supported him as a Designer and Project Manager. We visited Nicola Coppi on site to learn more about frozen food, his life story and his secret of success.

From Modena to Guilin: 

The Journey Started in 1999

Nicola studied business management in Italy, when he had this China dream. He wanted to bring the Italian food culture to China. So, he started his journey in 1999 in Guilin with an Italian Food Court. “We had been pioneers at that time in Guilin. In 2005 we moved on to Shanghai to start a new adventure with a Food and Vending company. Our vending business was not the sale of machines, but their operation. We bought machines from an Italian supplier, installed them in different locations like schools, banks, companies, etc. and then we took care of the maintenance, cleaning and refilling. In addition, we sold coffee, drinks and snacks to the end customers. 2010 was a big step for us: I took over the company with my wife Elena. We focused on premium food and started to build our own brand ‘Nicola Coppi’.” Elena is the driving force in brand building with substance, thus supporting the long-term business development. She is the one creating new recipes, improving the quality step by step. She makes sure that “Nicola Coppi” is not just a marketing buzz word, but a real promise for premium food and Italian authenticity.

The Expo Brought Exponential Growth

When taking over, Nicola and his wife decided to go all in for top-level food productions. The Expo 2010 in Shanghai boosted the business and the plan to become the preferred Premium Italian Food company became reality. “At the Expo we supplied the pavilions of Holland, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, and we produced Gelato for the French pavilion and the VIP area of the US pavilion. Carrefour in Gubei was our first big deal for Pizza, Pasta, and Lasagne. City Super, Olé and lately Aldi followed. The food giant Nestlé also orders from us. To give you some figures: In 2011 we had 11 supermarkets. In 2012 it was already 40 and today we count over 600 stores across China.”

“We are the Italians the Chinese like”

When it comes to quality and authenticity, Nicola and his wife make no compromises. What does that mean exactly? “We only use the same ingredients that Italian housewives use. The oil they prefer, we prefer. The tomatoes they buy, we buy. We use the ingredients Italian Gelato Artisans choose. No cheap industrial products, because we are not industrial.” Nicola’s secret of success is pretty straight: He chooses proven traditional Italian recipes and makes them even better. That also means that he does not change the recipes to suit local tastes. He decided to take a different route. “If the Chinese do not like a certain dish or recipe, we just don’t offer it. No adaption. On the other hand, if the Chinese like a certain Italian dish, they get it in 100% Italian style from us. We are the Italians the Chinese like.”

Room to Grow with the Support of VIRTUARCH

In 2017, Nicola decided to move his production into a bigger space, offering him more possibilities to grow his output, but also to add on new product lines. When looking for a partner to help designing and implementing the project, Nicola turned to VIRTUARCH: “I was looking for a team who could understand my needs, who understood my vision and who was skilled in helping me implement it in a practical and cost-efficient way.” Nicola explains: “The new factory was ready within a few months, and it passed all authority controls swiftly despite the many regulations China has for Food Production. VIRTUARCH has been exactly the partner I needed to get things done smoothly.”

Highest Safety and Hygiene Regulations Guaranteed

Nicola has to conform with the strictest regulations in food production. In 2019 he was certified by SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company from Switzerland. Nestlé requires even higher standards, which Nicola meets. In line with his artisan approach, Nicola designates an own room for each major production step: 13 rooms are dedicated for the production of pesto alone. His production site comprises around 100 rooms altogether. The highest security measures apply in the factory. Before you are allowed into the production halls, you have to put on a protective hood, coat and covers for your shoes. The rooms are accessed through a security gate in which possible particles on the clothes are blown away by nozzles placed on both sides of the cabin walls of the gates. This procedure has to be repeated every time a production room is entered.  

Frozen Food is a Trend in China

When Covid-19 hit China, frozen food became a good alternative to fresh food for consumers and restaurants alike. “We use highest quality and fresh ingredients when preparing the dishes, then we shock freeze everything. After cooking at home, people get a premium dish, which is simple to prepare. The pesto does not even have to be cooked.” Restaurants outsource, externalize some steps in food production. That started already before Covid-19, and it was accelerated even more with the pandemic. Now, premium restaurants are looking for premium food suppliers that can match their quality: Nicola’s Food Vending China is this company.

Chilly kitchen, Nicola’s Online Shop is Booming

An increasing number of Chinese people appreciate the benefits of frozen food, especially when the quality is right. As a result, Nicola receives more and more inquiries via his online shop. In addition to the supermarket chains and the restaurants, he also offers his food creations to the end consumer. The brands “Nicola Coppi” for Italian specialties, “Chilly Gourmet” for Bakery and “Ni Ke Si Chu” with special Chinese creations are available for anyone who orders at his online shop.





PROJECT SIZE: 4,000 sqm


Nicola’s Xmas gift for you: 

20% off in his official online store

Good news for VIRTUARCH WeChat followers: Get 20% discount in the Nicola Coppi online store. The promotion poster and the QR code will be released in tomorrow’s post. Don’t hesitate to follow VIRTUARCH WeChat account and get the discount at first hand. The promotion is only valid till December 27, 2020. Do not wait too long!

Merry Xmas from Nicola Coppi and VIRTUARCH.

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