All of grain-based foods should share the pride evident last week in New York when the U.S. pasta industry played host to World Pasta Day. The event, which has been held annually around the world by the International Pasta Organization since 1995, was hosted by the National Pasta Association and Oldways.
In a keynote presentation, Peter Smith, chief executive of New World Pasta Co., described the remarkable recovery in pasta sales in the past year. Despite sharp price increases, pasta volume climbed solidly.
"There has been no negative pricing elasticity in this business," he said. In fact, he noted that pasta ranked No. 1 among all supermarket categories in unit volume growth and No. 2 in dollar growth. Prompted in significant measure by the weak economy and more eating at home, consumers have "rediscovered" pasta, he said.
An audience of 200 representing 13 countries attended the event.
A durum miller in attendance summarized the event well.
"The tenor was very positive," he said. "Most people in the business know how ugly it was five or six years ago and have an appreciation for what is happening now. But the exuberance was tempered by the earlier bad experience."
The paths to recovery taken by pasta and commercial baking in the years since the Atkins boom have differed significantly, but there are many commonalities in the experiences of the two industries. For bakers, the pasta makers’ New York celebration should be catalyst to explore anew ways for baking and pasta to work together to sustain the sectors’ positive momentum.