Paying for pasta

by Eric Schroeder
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Barilla last year introduced Barilla Pronto pasta in five varieties: elbows, half-cut linguine, penne, half-cut spaghetti and rotini.

KANSAS CITY — Unit sales may be down, but dollar sales in the dry pasta category are on the way up. In the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, dollar sales in the pasta category, which includes noodles, spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta shapes, totaled $2,199,040,256, up 3.4% from the same period a year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Unit sales, meanwhile, dipped 1% to 1,549,038,848.

The average price per unit of noodles during the period increased 12c per unit, to $2.04, while the average price per unit of spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta shapes rose 6c per unit to $1.37.

So, why are people now paying for pasta?

The gains may be traced to a few trends that have taken hold in the category. Already widely known as a convenient product, pasta manufacturers have found ways to make their products even easier for people to prepare. They’ve also tapped in to trends such as gluten-free and organic that have consumers searching out alternatives to fit a certain lifestyle.

Pasta pronto, please!

The world’s largest pasta producer, Barilla Group, Parma, Italy, experienced a nearly 6% spike in dollar sales during the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, despite a 3.5% decrease in unit sales, according to I.R.I. The average price per unit for the company’s pasta products jumped 13c during the past year, to $1.53, I.R.I. said.

The company has found that consumers have been willing to pay more for whole grain, added nutrients and convenience. The company last year introduced Barilla Pronto pasta in five varieties: elbows, half-cut linguine, penne, half-cut spaghetti and rotini.

Barilla Pronto pasta is placed in a 12-inch skillet, covered with three cups of cold water, then cooked over high heat until the water is absorbed, eliminating the need to boil or drain.

“Pronto is a game changer for the busy home cook,” said Chef Michael Voltaggio, who partnered with Barilla to launch the pasta. “You don’t have to wait for the water to boil, you don’t have to worry about draining, and the precise thickness and shape of each Pronto cut make it easy to get perfectly ‘al dente’ pasta every time.”

Jennifer Ping, senior brand manager at Barilla Group, added that Barilla Pronto bridges the gap between ease and convenience in the kitchen and the desire to create unique and impressive meals.

From gluten-free to non-G.M.O.

New World Pasta Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ebro Foods, had mixed results within its pasta business during the past year. In the 52 weeks ended Feb. 21, dollar sales of New World Pasta noodles increased 3.6%, while dollar sales of spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta shapes fell 1.8%. The Harrisburg, Pa.-based company has taken steps over the past six months to put itself in position to meet demand for gluten-free and non-bioengineered food products. In January, the company began making Ronzoni gluten-free pasta in the United States. The move followed the installation of two pasta lines at the company’s Ebro Foods’ facility in Memphis, Tenn. The new gluten-free pasta lines were part of a $20 million expansion at the Memphis plant.

In January, New World Pasta Co. began making Ronzoni gluten-free pasta in the United States.

“Being able to make our Ronzoni gluten-free products close to home will allow us to continue producing high quality gluten-free pastas and adds the flexibility to react to consumer trends, such as making new pasta varieties, and meet increasing consumer demands for gluten-free pasta options,” said Paul Galvani, senior vice-president of marketing for New World Pasta.

Previously, New World Pasta had imported Ronzoni gluten-free pasta products from overseas. Introduced in July 2013, Ronzoni gluten-free pasta was one of the first mainstream pasta brands to become widely available, helping fuel growth in the gluten-free pasta category. Ronzoni gluten-free pastas provide 19 grams of whole grains from a blend of white rice, brown rice, corn and quinoa. It is available in a variety of cuts, including penne rigate, spaghetti, rotini and elbows.

“The combination of these four grains is key to the development of gluten-free pastas that taste and perform just like traditional white pastas,” said Stephanie Bills, senior director of product development at New World Pasta.

Then, in February, New World Pasta said it has received Non-GMO Project Verification for its American Beauty, San Giorgio, Ronzoni, Creamette, Prince and Skinner pasta products. The company said the move further demonstrates its commitment to providing consumers with product information and responding to new, consumer-driven food trends.

“Today’s consumer is demanding transparency in food labels,” Mr. Galvani said. “Simply put, consumers want to know not just what’s in their food but also where it comes from. We are proud to be leading the way in the pasta category by earning Non-GMO Project Verification.”

New World Pasta said products with the verification seal began appearing on shelves earlier this year, and more than 200 pasta products under New World Pasta’s key brands will feature the new verification seal.

Alternative sales channels

Gabriella’s Kitchen, a Toronto-based manufacturer of better-for-you foods, entered the United States last year with its debut in Los Angeles. Showing its commitment to reaching U.S. consumers, the company in January launched an on-line store that will allow the company to deliver all its skinnypasta products across the United States. The on-line store may be found on the Gabriella’s Kitchen web site, www.GKskinnypasta.com.

In January , Gabriella's Kitchen launched an on-line store that will allow the company to deliver all its skinnypasta products across the United States.

“We’re thrilled to be able to ship our skinnypasta products right to our U.S. customers’ front doors,” said Margot Micallef, co-founder and chief executive officer of Gabriella’s Kitchen.

The Gabriella’s Kitchen portfolio includes three lines of pastas marketed under the skinnypasta brand: skinnypasta gluten-free, skinnypasta high protein and skinnypasta superfood teff penne.

In addition to on-line availability for customers in the United States, skinnypasta products are available in more than 1,500 stores across the United States and Canada.

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