Pasta and Italian cuisine continue to face a multitude of challenges, reports Jonathan Thomas.
Sales of pasta – a sector which includes fresh, frozen and dried varieties – remain sizeable across much of Europe. This can largely be attributed to the ongoing popularity of Italian cuisine in large economies such as the UK, France and Germany. This is for reasons such as its simplicity, its availability (which has been boosted by the continued spread of Italian outlets within the foodservice industry), its affordability and the range of different tastes and flavors offered by many of the typical dishes. Health is often cited as another reason for the popularity of Italian foods, since the Mediterranean diet carries strong links with healthy eating.
In the UK, a 2015 survey on eating out habits carried out by pasta and sauces manufacturer Sacla of 2,000 people found that 92% of consumers enjoyed Italian foods, with 42% likely to opt for Italian cuisine at a pub or restaurant. The same survey found that nearly half (49%) of respondents had eaten Italian food out of the home within the last month, whilst more than a fifth (22%) named Italian as their favorite cuisine when eating out, second only to British (30%). Almost three-quarters (74%) ranked Italian amongst their top 5 preferences.
The survey also found that Italian food is perceived as being highly versatile – almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents agreed with this statement, claiming there would always be something everyone likes, whilst 25% felt that Italian food was highly affordable. Furthermore, 51% of UK consumers claimed that Italian cuisine represents the perfect meal for a romantic date. Italian is also a favorite when dining out with close friends, mentioned by a leading 30% of respondents. Italian cuisine also seems to carry a broad appeal, with 25% of parents saying it was the most popular food for their children.
Italian-based recipes and dishes enjoy a similar following in countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands. However, competition remains strong from other cuisines – for example, Indian is a favorite in the UK, many Dutch consumers have a liking for Indonesian cuisine, whilst Chinese and/or Oriental foods are popular across much of Western Europe. As consumer tastes become more adventurous and sophisticated, this trend is expected to accelerate. Changing demographic patterns are also affecting the way many Europeans eat – for example, the habit of sitting down to eat home-cooked meals with families is declining in Italy, as younger people are now more likely to live alone or dine in a less formal way.
European Pasta Consumption
Europe remains a world leader in terms of both consumption and production of pasta. According to latest data from the International Pasta Organization (IPO), Italian production of pasta currently amounts to 3.2 million tons, which equates to over a fifth (22%) of annual global output. Italy is also a major exporter of pasta – according to latest data, the UK, France, Germany, the US and Japan account for over 60% of its exports by value. The world’s other leading producer countries at present include the US (2 million tons), Turkey (1.3 million tons), Brazil (1.2 million tons) and Russia (almost 1.1 million tons). The top five countries therefore account for almost 60% of world production. Italy also represents Europe’s leading consumer of pasta in per capita terms by some distance. According to latest estimates, the average Italian eats 23.5 kg of pasta per year, a figure which decreases to 11.2 kg in Greece and just over 9 kg in Switzerland. At the other end of the scale, per capita consumption of pasta drops to 4.4 kg in the Netherlands, and 3.5 kg in the UK.
You can read the entire article in the May-June print issue of Frozen Food Europe.