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Good eating, good returns

Will investors bite on a ham and cheese as an investment?

Could pasta be developing into an asset class?

When it comes to key ingredients in a pasta dish, the idea doesn't seem so far-fetched.

Aiming to fulfill requests by European governments to boost investing in projects linked to the real economy, pension funds are searching for private debt investments. That's led some money managers, eyeing a €4.5 billion ($5.2 billion) EU export market for ham and Parmesan, to try to match investors with ham and cheese producers in Italy that need financing.

Because ham and cheese take 10 to 20 months to mature, that stretches banks' balance sheets. At the same time, producers' high leverage shrinks their ability to secure more funds from traditional sources of financing, said Christian Lemaire, global head of retirement solutions at Amundi in Paris.

Commercial loan investments in general could earn pension funds a target return equal to the Euribor three-month rate plus 4.5% for three years, according to Amundi.