Who Eats The Most Pasta?

If you were waiting for a shock-surprise answer on this, I’ll have to disappoint you. The most pasta-crazed nation on Earth is, of course, Italy. Italians scoffed 26kg of pasta per head in 2012. Neighbouring Switzerland, by comparison, managed only 11.7kg and Germany 8.7kg.

Spätzle. A bit boring without any creamy sauce on it, I admit...

Spätzle. A bit boring without lashings of creamy sauce on it…

This latter figure did surprise me a bit, because I grew up in Germany, and we sure ate a lot of pasta. We also made our own, a (Swabian) regional variety called “Spätzle”, made from a runny dough dropped into boiling water. (Note: home-made pasta is not included in the data quoted, which skews it slightly.)

You need this implement to make Spätzle. Unless you're a pro, then all you need is a wooden board and a knife.

An implement for Spätzle making found in every southern German kitchen. If you’re a true pro, then all you need (apart from a pot of boiling water) is a wooden board and a knife.

When I moved to the UK more than twenty years ago, I did notice that less pasta seemed to be eaten there compared with Germany. Not sure what the figures were back then, but in 2012, UK per capita pasta consumption stood at 5.3kg, a third less Germany’s, and on a par with that of Latvia and Egypt. The US is even further down the pasta aficionado rankings with just 4.2kg per head, which is below that of Russia with 6.9kg.

Crisis In Pastaland – Premiumisation to the rescue!

You may be surprised to hear this, but not all is well in the world of pasta. Pasta consumption is falling in its European heartland, and also in the US. In Italy, consumption plummeted from 32.5kg in 1998 to the aforementioned 26kg in 2012.

Western European average consumption declined from 9.9kg in 2006 to 9.2kg in 2012 – a small, yet significant downward trajectory. This is partly due to competition from other carbohydrate foods, such as rice and noodles, driven by the proliferation of ‘ethnic’ cuisines, like Indian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese food.

For manufacturers of pasta, this is a total disaster. A solution had to be found.

So, what do you do when you can’t sell MORE of your product? Simple: You charge more for smaller quantities. Welcome to the concept of ‘premiumisation’.

Premiumisation is a favourite tactic employed by the food and beverage industries to get more money for less product, and you can see this happening in every product category. Juice manufacturers, for example, will often resort to simply repackaging a within-an-inch-of-its-life sterilised, reconstituted juice, and then having supermarkets display it in the chiller cabinet instead of on a ‘normal’ (ambient) shelf. That way, the juice appears to be ‘fresh’ and ‘premium’, and lemmings like you and I will fork out double. It’s all in the presentation, you see, not so much the actual content.

A perfect example of premiumisation, replete with a little tale about its alleged origins augmented by the emphatic assurance that you’re buying the REAL thing to make it sound ‘authentic’. ‘Authenticity’ is another key tool in the premiumisation game.
I do wonder what would happen if you served this up to a feisty Puglian granny? My guess it she’d stuff those little ear things right up your where-the-sun-don’t-shine…

In the world of pasta, the obvious solution was to start selling us ‘fresh pasta’, because ‘fresh’ equals premium. The fresh pasta invasion started sometime during in the 1990s, and a multitude of different shapes and brands can now be found in every pasta-consuming nation’s supermarket chiller cabinet section.

The strategy worked a treat: retail value sales of chilled/fresh pasta in the United Kingdom, for example, tripled over the last decade. In France and Germany, where retail value sales of dull old dried pasta remained static, chilled/fresh pasta sales rocketed by 35% and 115%, respectively.

The category, which has suffered the heaviest losses is that of canned pasta, because food in tins is generally viewed as low-end, i.e. the antithesis of ‘premium’.

Not even Waitrose can make this look appetising...

Not even Waitrose can make this look sexy…

So, what is your favourite pasta dish? Creamy or tomatoey? Baked or boiled?? Any good pasta anecdotes? Spill…!

[For data source, click here]

29 thoughts on “Who Eats The Most Pasta?

  1. bevchen

    I loooove Käsespätzle…. but I wouldn’t count it as pasta! Spätzle is like mini dumplings. (Gnocchi isn’t pasta to me either… it’s potato dumplings).

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  2. TBM

    We don’t eat a lot of pasta since the better half is not a fan. And I’m finding I don’t see it on the menu much here in London. So I can’t name my favorite dish. Can I say pizza instead?

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  3. Anna

    I am REALLY shocked that Russia consumes more pasta than the US. I mean, Mac&Cheese is such a staple and so American! Ditto spaghetti and meatballs. And ironically, while traveling through Italy, I ate a lot more meats and salads and grilled fish etc than pasta dishes. Even though I love it.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hmmm… Mac&Cheese would be counted under ready meals in the data, rather than pasta. Unless it’s home-made, but most Americans will probably buy it in packet format.

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  4. Bastet

    Hmmm…now…that is a hard question! I think my favorite is “Strangola prete” in butter and sage…we make it here in Trentino and is not too very different from Spatzle; made with two day old bread, egg, cheese chopped spinach with a hint of onion…rolled up in little balls and then thrown into boiling water ’til they float…afterwards you pour melted butter and sage over them. Here Spatzle and gnocchi etc. are considered pasta by the way.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Ah, see, those Strangola prete things, from your description, would be considered dumplings elsewhere. All a matter of interpretation. But no doubt delicious all the same 😉

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  5. pollyheath

    I think I ate 26 kilos of pasta last night. As a vegetarian, I was basically raised on any and all pasta as a staple!

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