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U.S. Pasta Industry Seeing Positive Trends

Posted: Apr 27 2023

The U.S. is the largest pasta consuming country in the world, not on a per capita basis, but for overall volume.  As with any industry, it has faced challenges including impacts from  anti-carb and anti-gluten diet fads, which led to lower traditional pasta consumption, but recently, those negative challenges have faded, and the industry is seeing more positive trends.  Over the past ten years, USDA’s estimated food use of durum has ranged from 78 to 88 million bushels.  Prior to 2012, U.S. durum food use averaged slightly more than 80 million bushels, with a peak of 86 mb in 2006 before falling to a low of 75 million in 2011, in the face of negative diet trends.  Use has remained fairly stable over the past ten years, but had a significant rebound in consumption during the first year of the COVID pandemic, reaching a record high of 88 million bushels, as in-home pasta demand soared. High prices impacted durum use in 2021 and 2022, but this year, durum pasta has again rebounded.

At the recent annual meeting of the National Pasta Association, held in early March, the outgoing Chairman gave a very optimistic look at current and future trends, but also talked about challenges.  Carl Zuanelli, founder and former CEO of Nuovo Pasta Productions Ltd., touted the resiliency of the U.S. industry with past challenges, and the most recent ones of inflation and supply chain issues, and remained confident the industry can weather the most recent challenges.  Inflationary pressures have squeezed margins in the industry, and supply chain issues have left demand unfilled, with some grocery store shelves empty of pasta at times, due to shortages of packing materials, freight and labor.   

There have also been shifts in pasta demand and marketing in the past three years, with a sharp drop in food service use, and less promotions.  However, overall demand has remained strong, and actual dollar values of pasta sales is higher in the year just ended in February, compared to the first year of the COVID pandemic.  This past year pasta sales reached $3.92 billion, up from $3.29 the prior year, and higher than the $3.67 billion reached in the year ended February 2021.

Millennials are creating new opportunities in demand for the industry, with their increased fondness for cooking, and using food to connect with peers.  They represent 80 million people, slightly higher than the baby boomers of 78 million.  While traditional pasta demand is coming back, Millennials are also demanding organic, artisanal, handmade and local.   Non-durum pasta demand had increased interest a few years ago, but seems to have stabilized in recent years. 

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