Focus: Besana fruit and nut specialist marks major centenary milestone

Operating across the world, Besana, an award-winning UK/Italian-leading dried fruit and nut manufacturer supplying sectors including confectionery, is marking its 100th anniversary of the company’s founding, including 86 years in the Britain. We cast an eye over its memorable history.

Since its creation in 1921, Besana’s history remains intertwined with the Calcagni family, with its founder members Emilio and Vincenzo Besana followed by their grandnephew Giuseppe Calcagni, known as ‘Pino’ and serves as its present honorary president.

The company has been active in dozens of markets around the world, involved with key food sector segments including confectionery and snacks based industries that have made it a prominent player.

A century on from its inception, the fourth generation of the family is at the helm of the company. Vittoria Calcagni serves as Head of Public Affairs and Riccardo Calcagni as CEO of the company.

The business is now considered the main Italian nuts and dried fruits manufacturer in terms of volume of production, with 450 employees and three different production plants (one in the UK and two in Italy).

Globally, Besana operates across five continents and imports raw materials from 30 countries. Every year, the company processes 38,100 tonnes of nuts, dried fruit, and seeds. It now has a turnover exceeding £165 million (€190 million).

Last year the company entered a particularly notable chapter in its history, becoming part of the Importaco Group. The strategic development plan aims at creating common synergies and consolidating leadership in international markets. The partnership created the largest European alliance in the nuts sector and a global top 10 market player.

All the way from Southern Italy, Besana has supplied British supermarkets since its partnership with M&S in 1935. In 1980, Besana’s UK marketing office opened in Essex. In 1989, Besana UK Ltd was established and opened a factory in the Cotswolds.

After a quarter of a century in the West of England, the company relocated to Ipswich, with its factory supporting more than 60 jobs in the town. The company now also supplies the largest UK supermarkets, including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and Aldi. In 2012, the UK government bestowed a ‘Long Term Investment Award’ on the business for 25 years of activity in the UK market.


Throughout its history, the firm has been a pioneering force in the sector. From making bold investments in Southern Italy, the company has expanded through post-war periods, the Second World War, two major fires, an earthquake, globalisation, Brexit, and the pandemic.

Over the past century, it has also been at the forefront of global movements, such as female empowerment, innovation, sustainability, and public health. It is committed to equal opportunities and its workforce is presently 65% women.

Significantly, the company has also been a crucial hub for innovation. In 1935, it was the first company in Europe to install a mechanical shelling machine for hazelnuts and introduced the first-ever machine for peeling almonds in 1950. Today, the company’s factories feature more than 12 processes, including cutting-edge technology related to food safety and production.

Other notable achievements include Pino Calcagni being a founding member of the influential International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) in 1983, with the business also taking a lead on key environmental issues. Significantly, it is set to make 25% of its packaging recyclable by 2022, and 100% by 2025.

Marking a major milestone

Speaking to Confectionery Production on its major anniversary, Riccardo Calcagni, CEO of Besana, said: “2020 has ended and has made the world aware of its unthinkable fragility, leading to people questioning borders and distances”.

He added, “We, too, have had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic; however, this has not stopped our goals for growth. We are used to facing obstacles as mere opportunities to reposition and relaunch”.

“At the start of the pandemic, we implemented procedures to protect our staff and consumers. We installed plexiglass, made hand sanitiser accessible, and mandated masks and social distancing. Our main goals were to protect our staff, customers, and supply chains. Thanks to our tireless workforce, I am proud to say we achieved all three.

“Since joining my family’s business in 1992, our company has changed a lot. We have expanded, innovated, and even integrated with the Importaco Group to create Europe’s largest nut and dried fruit manufacturer. The globalisation of trade has made this possible.”

He added that as a result of its recent success, he remains optimistic about its future, given its R&D department constantly researching consumer trends to ensure products are healthy, safe, sustainable, and meet the needs of our future customers. Furthermore, he noted that its key network of suppliers held strong throughout the pandemic, which he felt would be set to continue in the years ahead.

Pino Calcagni, Honorary President of Besana, concluded: “In one hundred years, we have been through a lot and this gives us the courage and determination to look forward to the future with optimism”.


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