It was not a given that Denis Amadori would one day be handed the reins of one of Italy’s largest agri-food companies, Amadori, simply because his father owned the company.
For the five years after receiving his master’s degree, Amadori oversaw various key operations within the company, from reproduction, hatcheries and rearing farms to slaughtering and de-boning plants. It was this hands-on, diverse experience that set him apart from Amadori’s three previous CEOs, all appointed from outside the Amadori family.
“Amadori is to chickens as Ferrari is to cars.”
“It is a big difference now to have a CEO who has experience with the entire supply chain,” Amadori tells The CEO Magazine. “Most of our products have about a 10-day shelf life, so things need to move very quickly.”
The stakes were high for Amadori, who took over leadership of the company in late 2022. First, he had to live up to the towering legacy of his father, Francesco. The elder Amadori gained fame in Italy for himself and the company in the 1990s by promoting food safety on TV in the wake of a dioxin scare in the European poultry industry and, in doing so, ensured that thousands of workers’ jobs survived the crisis.
In the decades since, Amadori has grown into a company with more than US$1.9 billion in annual turnover, over 9,000 employees and 20,000 customers of various sizes, from local butchers to mammoth chains, including McDonald’s.
Since taking over the leadership of the company in late 2022, together with his elder brother Flavio as Chair, Amadori has channeled the knowledge he gained in his early operational roles and his nuanced understanding of the poultry industry to lay the groundwork for strategic reformation designed to take Amadori to new heights.
First on Amadori’s list of reforms was to create a governance structure that would afford the CEO the freedom to think strategically, rather than overseeing every aspect of day-to-day operations. He reduced the CEO’s direct reports from 24 general managers to just five.
“The idea was to have not just one person, the CEO, be involved in all matters, but to instead share with a few key, strategic people in the company,” he explains.
Amadori’s adaptability and forward-thinking positioned him to expand beyond its traditional poultry products. Last year, the company acquired a ham business. And within the next 12 months, he plans to make further acquisitions that will allow the business to introduce an entire new generation of products.
Amadori is also in the process of transforming the business from a poultry company into a protein company, which means investing in the development of new plant-based products.
“Everybody is becoming flexitarian – consuming less animal protein,” he says. “We want to be the leader in all protein that has a guaranteed Italian taste and quality, whether it is animal protein or plant-based.”
Amadori’s plant-based protein products are made of peas, which are generally less allergenic than soy-based products.
At the same time, he is maintaining Amadori’s high-quality standards for its traditional poultry products. Half of the chickens Amadori raises produce premium products, meaning they receive no antibiotics and are fed with only non-GMO vegetable feed. They also live with fewer animals per square meter than poultry of Amadori’s main competitors. With 120 farms located in Puglia, in southern Italy, Amadori’s ‘II Campese’ chickens can live outdoors throughout the year.
“We are Italy’s only producer of this slow-growing and raised-outdoor chicken supply chain,” Amadori says. “Amadori is to chickens as Ferrari is to cars.”
Strong partnerships are key to helping Amadori navigate the complexities of a competitive food industry with complex supply chains.
“A long partnership means that we have a supplier that started with my father 50 years ago who has the same goals, the same objective and the same mission as we do,” Amadori says.
Although partnerships inevitably involve tense negotiations over bottom lines, being transparent about Amadori’s future plans and key strategies help the parties find common ground.
“If you give your partners transparency, you can also obtain a fair economic arrangement. If I have a partner who is a healthy partner, then we have assurance of the supply and I have a supplier that can invest in the technology necessary to ensure I get my raw materials,” Amadori says.
“We want to be the leader in all protein that has a guaranteed Italian taste and quality, whether it is animal protein or plant-based.”
Faerch Italy, Amadori’s packaging supplier, is one company that has benefited from this commitment to transparency.
He takes the same approach with Amadori’s workforce, making them feel welcome as long-term team members, especially those who have come to Italy from other countries to work for him. For instance, the company sponsors the children of its foreign workers to attend a summer camp, where children of various national backgrounds can gain an international perspective.
He calls this an expression of Amadori’s culture as a company that loves people.
“If you feed your family, you love,” he says. “If you do something good for the community, you love. If you are sustainable for the environment, you love.”