The choice not to relocate, the won bet of investing in the talent (and hands) of local women and men, the positioning on the US market. Pippo Callipo talks about a company that is a piece of history: "The common thread that binds all our activities is the desire to create value in Calabria, to make known the beauty and the good that this land offers and the local traditions"
An art not to be lost combined with unconditional love for a territory that he never wanted to leave. This is how Pippo Callipo, president of the group that links his name to the famous tuna from Pizzo, tells a 106-year-long story, whose roots sink and draw sap in the deepest Calabria, the nerve center of old and new businesses. Former president of Confindustria Vibo Valentia, appointed Cavaliere del Lavoro by the former president of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Filippo known as "Pippo" represents the fourth generation of his family at the head of the Callipo Group, which today - among its activities - also counts a volleyball team, a resort and a "monda" school reserved for women only, as well as a project to assign some prisoners to pack products during the Christmas period. A concrete commitment that has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, Pippo Callipo and his group have been the victim of various 'Ndrangheta-related attacks: "vile actions", he comments, which however did not make him give up, leading him to denounce the mafia rackets and - with even more vigor - what defines "the mafia with the pen". A bureaucracy that holds a large portion of the country hostage, along with its best vocations and promises.
President, what does it mean to do business and invest in Calabria in 2019? How has the territory transformed in the last century, compared to when Callipo laid his first stone? Once tuna was the prized tuna of the Mediterranean, today it is no longer the case. Many other things have changed, although yours remains a recognized brand beyond regional borders
“106 years have passed since the birth of our company and many things have changed. It all began on January 14, 1913 in Pizzo di Calabria, a place known since ancient times for tuna fishing and for the "fixed trap" systems, when my great-grandfather, Giacinto Callipo , gave life together with two of his sons to the "Giacinto Callipo" company, the first in Calabria and among the first in Italy to can the prized Mediterranean tuna, as fresh tuna deteriorated immediately, therefore it had to be stored in order to be consumed over time. Our history has always been linked to the love of the land, the sea, fishing, "quality above all", which is the philosophy that inspired the founder and which has been handed down becoming the cornerstone of every activity.
In this way there has been the alternation of five generations: I represent the fourth and my children Giacinto and Filippo Maria the fifth. Many things have changed and evolved over time, but the principles and values have remained unchanged, such as the craftsmanship in some stages of production, for example. Furthermore, the entire production cycle takes place in our factory in Maierato (VV) where today we process the yellowfin species starting from whole tuna. To always be competitive on the market, we need to capitalize on the experience of the past and at the same time be able to look to the future, proposing innovative products and projects”.
Callipo's experience has been defined as an experience of resistance. The decision to stay in Calabria, without relocating, will have led and probably will lead to very high prices to pay, not only in economic terms… What drives you to continue?
“The decision not to relocate is linked to two substantial factors; the first is the particular relationship that binds me to my land for which I have a deep love and, although aware of the limits and the innumerable difficulties to face, I could never abandon it. It would seem to me that I am betraying my collaborators and a whole territory. After all, we have demonstrated and are still demonstrating that, in any case, even in this land it is possible to do business, grow and diversify as we did by creating a group of six companies.
The second reason is actually a precise company strategy, despite the fact that labor costs in Italy are much higher than abroad, only in this way can we guarantee respect for the tradition that we have been handing down for 106 years, specialized labor and, above all, of the entire production chain. Furthermore, the Italian hygienic-sanitary standards are much stricter than those of other countries where many of our competitors produce".
In Callipo we innovate within tradition. An example, in this sense, is the tuna cleaning phase, the so-called cleaning, which has always been entrusted entirely to female hands, and which today also has its own school. How did the idea come about?
“We decided to preserve an ancient craft such as the world of tuna by creating a school , because it is a delicate phase of processing that greatly affects the quality of the finished product. The tuna, after being cut and steamed, is in fact delivered to the expert and delicate hands of our women who carry out the careful and scrupulous cleaning of the slices. This department is voluntarily made up of women, because this art requires extreme delicacy and precision. We don't want to waste it."
Tuna but not only: the attention to the social fabric of the place and to the new generations has led you to differentiate your business and to promote different initiatives, from sport to the tourism sector. Is there a common thread that binds them?
“The common thread is the “territory”, the desire to create value in Calabria, to make known the beauty and the good that this land offers and the local traditions.
In the early nineties I had the opportunity to purchase a magnificent land of about 140 hectares whose vocation was and is not only agricultural but also touristic. Thus was born the idea of creating the Popilia Country Resort, a tourist structure that could combine the beauty of the place with the sense of hospitality of the Calabrians and with the philosophy of quality that is in force in all the companies of the Group.
The Callipo Gelateria, on the other hand, was born from one of my "dreams in the drawer". Pizzo as well as being known for tuna fishing is known as "the city of ice cream" for the artisan ice cream tradition and in particular for the specialty called "pizzo truffle". I have always thought of an industrial production, with artisan methods and excellent raw materials, in order to make our goodness known in Italy and in the world and when the opportunity presented itself, I did not hesitate. The Callipo Dalla Nostra Terra brand, launched in 2006 to enhance some of the excellences of our region, also forms part of the differentiation of production: this is how the line of jams and compotes was born.
Finally, Callipo Sport was born from my desire to share my passion for volleyball with the local area, a healthy, clean sport intended for the whole family. Today, we play in the men's national super league championship and our youth sector includes many youngsters among its ranks who, in a territory as difficult and lacking in opportunities as ours, find in our reality an opportunity to play high-level sports".
On several occasions over the years, you and the Callipo Group have been the object of attacks and intimidation of the 'Ndrangheta. How do you live, in daily life, with this threat that exposes your person to concrete risks, as well as your business and, consequently, the work of those who contribute to your success?
"It is true. Over the years we have been victims of various attacks: even if they immediately discouraged us, we found the strength to react, get up and continue to live our daily lives in normalcy, as those who work in compliance with the laws, morals and ethics he cannot and must not be frightened by the cowardly actions of the mafia".
How do you view the US market? In the USA there is a great hunger for Made in Italy and Americans are often victims of that phenomenon of Italian sounding which is so harmful to the economy of our companies, whose interests also risk being heavily affected by the tariffs decided by Donald Trump. How do you aim to position yourself overseas?
“Our company has been present in the USA for many years, despite the high duties that have always weighed on the category. Such a distinctive product allows us to build consumer loyalty. Certainly the threat of low-priced products originating from Central/South America - and not subject to such high duties - is always lurking (as indeed in other countries), but the differentiating proposal of quality and innovation fortunately continues to be positively perceived and appreciated by all those consumers who are lovers of good food. The USA remains an important country for Callipo's exports, we are growing double-digit with important further development projects”.
President, in various roles and occasions, you have personally dedicated yourself to defending the Calabrian territory: to date, according to your experience, what are the actions that the representatives of the institutions should put in place to protect and, indeed, encourage the work of other brave entrepreneurs?
“In Calabria there would be a lot of actions to do. I mention only a few. Streamlining bureaucracy, what I have always called the "pen mafia", which is suffocating, elephantine and inefficient. Do territorial marketing, which does not exist in Calabria, and become attractive to potential investors. Start making a serious program of development, adjustment, modernization of infrastructure. Do you think that the port of Gioia Tauro, which alone could solve the development problems of all of Southern Italy, is not connected, for just one kilometre, to the railway station".
https://www.lavocedinewyork.com/food/2019/11/11/callipo-una-storia-damore-lunga-106-anni-in-calabria-crescere-e-fare-impresa-si-puo/ by by Tiziana Ferrario