Wine and fashion. Operas and pasta. The Italians are globally famous for many, many things. Yet one of the world’s most recognizable Italian brands is not a fashion label or a wine producer. It’s a beer.
The beers of the Birra Peroni portfolio can be found in more than 70 nations, spanning six continents. While many labels from America, Germany, or Mexico could claim the same, Italy’s rise to recognition for brewing has only occurred in the last half century. The country has the Peroni family entirely to thank for that.
Peroni’s story begins in 1846, when Francesco Peroni founded a brewery in Vigevano, in the Lombardy region of Italy. He spent two decades toiling with barley, malt, and maize to create the company’s flagship pale lager. Sales were so good that, by 1864, his son Giovanni opened a second location in Rome. The family, it could be said, got in early. They were operating in Rome six years prior to the city’s establishment as Italy’s capital.
“The [flagship] brewery in Rome was located in Porta Pia, a historical site in the centre of the city,” offers Claudia Falcone, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, global brand di-rector. “It would be difficult to establish an exact date, but we can surely say that by the 1910s and ’20s, Birra Peroni was already holding a leadership position in the Italian market.”
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Italy experienced a boom of economic growth following the horrors of the Second World War. These prosperous and peaceful decades were marked by advances in industry, art, fashion, and cultural export. They were retroactively deemed “The Italian Economic Miracle”, and Peroni, as a company, shared in this age of enlightenment. In 1963, the brand launched their premium export lager, Peroni Nastro Azzurro; it became one of the most recognizable beers in the world, largely thanks to the company’s creative collaborations, such as with the fashion industry.
“Fashion is a natural fit for a brand like Peroni Nastro Azzurro, which aspires to export Italian style to the world,” explains Falcone. “The brand shares important values that are inherent to the fashion industry, including creative flair, effortless and timeless elegance, authenticity, and craftsmanship.”
Nastro Azzurro translates to “Blue Ribbon” in Italian, a name inspired by the victory of the Italian transatlantic S.S. Rex, which became the fastest passenger liner to cross the Atlantic in the early 1930s. The Peroni family remains passionate about sailing, and thus the brand acted as the official supplier of the Luna Rossa Challenge in 2013.
“Innovation is critical to maintain our brand relevance over time,” adds Falcone. “The past few months we have also launched a new bottle in the U.K., called ‘Piccola’: a [250 ml] bottle with a unique conic shape, inspired by the Italian tradition of aperitivo.” The label is the first beer brand to release their brew in this type of bottle.
Peroni, it’s safe to say, exports that charming Italian sense of style.