Pasta producers are introducing organic, whole grain, and legumes pasta to appeal to consumers who want to reduce carbohydrate intake but do not renounce to taste. The use of natural ingredients coupled with respect for tradition and certified quality are driving Italian pasta sales in the United States, offsetting a global consumption decline seen between 2011 and 2015 amid low-carb dietary trends. Exports of Italian pasta to the US increased 4% to 271 million euros in 2016, according to farmers’ association Coldiretti. Pasta remains the US fourth-largest imported food category from Italy behind wine, olive oil, and cheese.
Italian producers are innovating like ever before. In 2016, 28% of all new shelf-stable pasta launches carried an organic label in both Europe and the US, Mintel said. Low/no/reduced allergen was the second most popular claim in both Europe (22%) and the US (20%), according to the study. Gluten-free is the third most popular claim in the US (17%) and Europe (20%), it said. The 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, Jodie Minotto, Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said in the research. New pasta products are made of chickpeas, green pea, red lentil, flaxseed, buckwheat, ancient grains, turmeric, whole wheat, oat fiber and are GMO-free. The packages clearly indicate the healthy properties of products rich in fibers, proteins, and minerals. 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 products, Minotto said. Knowing about the importance of the “al dente” quality in traditional semolina pasta, Italian producers are researching new technologies to produce tasteful products that remain consistent when cooked. But the many lovers of durum wheat semolina will not be disappointed. Almost every large retailer in America is featuring a larger assortment of regional semolina imported from Italy – including for their private labels. Artisanal pasta proudly hails from regions such as Campania, Abruzzo, and Apulia, to name a few. Apart from penne, spaghetti and rigatoni, new shapes such as trofie, cavatelli and strascinati are being introduced in the US market. Emphasis is placed on authentic preparation such as slow drying and extrusion through bronze dies. Also, products claim no additives and no preservatives and some can be fully traceable.