Pasta Fits a simple, yet successful program

by Eric Schroeder
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LITCHFIELD PARK, ARIZ. — The Pasta Fits program launched by the National Pasta Association several years ago has been successful. So successful, in fact, that the N.P.A. will continue to throw support behind the initiative in hopes of even bigger returns.

In a March 10 presentation at the N.P.A. annual meeting at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Joan Cear, vice-president of Kellen Communications, and Stephanie Meyering, account supervisor at Kellen, took turns hammering home the power of the program.

Ms. Cear said the communication firm’s objectives for Pasta Fits are simple: Deliver positive messaging, promote the goodness of pasta, counter negative perceptions about pasta, protect and defend it, continue to build digital and social engagements and continue to increase traffic to the PastaFits.org web site.

The program’s success is evident in the dramatic uptick in traffic to the PastaFits.org web site. Average monthly visits have grown to 97,185 in February 2015 from 6,039 in March 2013.

Ms. Meyering said the firm especially is excited with the interest in the site’s nutrition web page. She said more than 87,000 people visited the site in 2014, up from 21,293 in 2013. People also are spending more time on the site, with the average time spent on the site at 1 minute, 51 seconds, up from 1 minute, 38 seconds in 2013.

Facebook and Twitter have been solid platforms for Pasta Fits, and Ms. Meyering said a new Pasta Fits Instagram account opened last year has yielded good results.

“What we have found is that Instagram is a really good way to engage people who are eating pasta,” she said. “People go out to dinner and take pictures of their delicious meals at a restaurant or they cook it at home and are really proud of what they have made and share them.”

The N.P.A. also has made a move with video. The association has partnered with registered dietitian Tina Ruggiero to create 12 new videos that promote pasta. The videos range from which wines to pair with pasta to deciding whether to use salt or oil when preparing pasta.

A key part of the 2014 Pasta Fits program was robust issues management, Ms. Cear said.

“We have responded to the media outlets that reported on the D.G.A.C. (Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee) report and the negative mentions of pasta,” she said. “We posted comments. We contacted reporters. We submitted a letter to the editor of The New York Times in response to an op-ed. … An article called “Debunking myths” was posted immediately on the home page of the Pasta Fits web site. This (shows) that our web site and our paid digital ads give us the opportunity to jump on an issue very, very quickly and direct people to that information. We continue to monitor coverage about the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, and the guidelines will be issued later this year. We think it’s going to be an ongoing topic of discussion. At this point there is a 45-day comment period, and we will be responding in conjunction with members of the Grain Chain to the issues related to grain in the report and we’ll continue that collaboration throughout the year.”

Looking ahead to 2015, Ms. Cear said the N.P.A. is looking at “more great photography, more great videos — we know they work, contests that engage people and get them interested and loving pasta even more. We want to increase our social media engagement. It’s working. We want to make it even better and more successful. And we want to keep pushing out and driving home the nutrition messages and attracting people to the web site for the truth from the National Pasta Association.”
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