Hasta la Pasta? Italians ditch traditional pasta for alternatives

© iStock/klenova

Sales of traditional pasta in Italy are falling as consumers ditch carb-heavy versions for gluten-free, whole wheat or even next-generation seaweed pasta, according to market research firm Mintel.

Italians seem to be giving up the traditional staple for health reasons, according to a report by Mintel, favouring low carb diets instead.

That being said, Italy still remains in the top three pasta eating nations, along with Brazil and Russia.

No more tagliatelle, pappardelle or fettucine

According to the report, 23% of Italians are limiting the amount of pasta they eat for health reasons, allowing Brazil to take the top spot for pasta consumption in 2016.

Furthermore, 28% of Italians aged 55 and over have also vowed to cut back.

“Health concerns over carbohydrate intake continue to plague sales of pasta, especially in Italy where retail sales have been in constant decline every year since 2009,” said Jodie Minotto, global food and drink analyst at Mintel. "The rising popularity of protein and the resurgence of low carb diets have made for a challenging environment for pasta, which is being shunned in favour of foods perceived to be healthier or more supportive of weight management efforts."

Gluten-free, whole wheat and organic varieties of pasta are also becoming more favourable across the country, with 8%, 30% and 21% of Italians eating them once a week or more, respectively.

However it is not just Italians giving up the food, as Mintel reports that only Russia, Germany and Brazil have seen positive growth for pasta between 2011 and 2015.

France, UK and Italy have experienced growth for rice and grains instead. Similarly, 41% of US consumers believe rice and grains to be a healthier option to pasta.

One quarter of British pasta consumers have also taken the low carb route and aim to eat less pasta.

50/50 is the way forward

In response to falling demand for traditional pasta, brands have started reformulating to include 50/50, organic, whole wheat and gluten-free product within their pasta range.

Mintel says that these ranges significantly outperform standard varieties, especially in the case of Napolina’s 50/50 spaghetti, made with 50% wholegrain flour.

The trend of gluten-free and low carb diets has resulted in better-for-you options of pasta being commonplace.

“The pasta category is vastly different to what it was even five years ago. Wheat-free, gluten-free and better-for-you options are now part of the standard pasta range. Consumer demand for natural, unprocessed foods has contributed to the rise in popularity of organic pasta, yet another option pasta brands now need to offer,” said Minotto.

Furthermore, consumers now prefer locally grown wheat rather than authentic Italian.

Wheat is also getting replaced entirely with the emergence of ‘pasta’ made from other ingredients.

“All manner of ingredients are being used in next generation ‘pasta’, the latest of which is seaweed. Sourdough fermentation is also being used to improve digestibility of gluten in wheat based pasta,” Minotto said.

Minotto concluded by saying pasta sales could be driven through the use of 3D printers to make customised pasta shapes and through increased brand building and investment in advertisement.

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