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.
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.)
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.
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’.
So, what is your favourite pasta dish? Creamy or tomatoey? Baked or boiled?? Any good pasta anecdotes? Spill…!
[For data source, click here]