- Sales of traditional Italian staple have plummeted, falling by 4.2% this year
- Trend away from carbohydrates and gluten-free food may be to blame
- Rice has shown a strong increase in sales and is up by 3.6% this year
From hearty lasagne to creamy spaghetti carbonara, Britain’s love affair with pasta spans decades. But sales of the traditional Italian staple have plummeted – with speculation that the trend away from carbohydrates and even towards gluten-free food might be to blame.
After booming in Britain since the 1960s when it was introduced by mainstream supermarkets, pasta sales slumped by 4.2 per cent in the past year.
Correspondingly, demand for rice had shown a strong increase – up 3.6 per cent to £393.3 million, an improvement on last year’s 1.8 per cent growth – suggesting Britons are switching from Italian food to more Asian-inspired cuisine.
Rice has also become a staple of convenience food in many popular supermarket microwave meals. Trade magazine The Grocer, which revealed the sales figures, said: ‘Arrivederci pasta? More of us are saying farewell to the Italian staple in favour of rice and noodles.
‘Pasta is down 4.2 per cent in value and 3.9 per cent in volume in a sector increasingly shaped by every-second-counts convenience.’
Increased rice sales have been recorded by big brands such as Uncle Ben’s, Tilda and Veetee. In 2011, a global survey by Oxfam named pasta as the world’s most popular dish. In British households, spaghetti bolognese has been a regular feature of meal-times since the 1960s and a staple of children’s diets.
The mix of tuna-pasta-sweetcorn is credited with sustaining many UK students through their years at university.
But the dish may now have fallen foul of faddish eating habits.
Many supermarkets and food brands have responded to the demand for gluten-free products by handing over more shelf-space and increasing their ranges.
Since the high-protein, high-fat Atkins diet exploded on to the dieting landscape in the 1970s and resurged in the early 2000s, the idea that carbohydrates lead to weight gain has spawned a multitude of low-carbohydrate diets.
These include the Paleo or ‘caveman’ diet which consists of protein, nuts and berries; the high-fat, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets, which aim to change the way the body metabolises its fat stores, and low-GI and –GL diets, which restrict the glycaemic index (GI) glycaemic loads (GL) and therefore control blood sugar levels.
In 2011, a global survey by Oxfam named pasta as the world’s most popular dish – but sales have slumped by 4.2 per cent in the past year
In recent years bread and pasta have become the enemies of the waistline, as more people realise that wheat and gluten products are often highly processed and refined.
This means they have a less complex molecular structure – resulting in the food getting broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream quicker.
This results in a ‘hit’ to the bloodstream, a spike in insulin levels and the excess glucose being stored as fat, and leads to a ‘crash’ and further hunger pangs.
Asda more than doubled its Free From range in time for the festive season to include gluten free sage and onion stuffing, Free From gravy and gluten-free Christmas cake and pudding.
Its gluten-free mince pies were particularly popular, while shoppers also snapped up gluten-free shortbread Christmas trees and Asda Free From cranberry and orange Cookies.
Hannah Thirkill, Asda’s Free From buyer, said: ‘There are now 12 million Brits buying gluten-free — a 120 per cent increase over the past five years — so we wanted to make sure our shoppers had lots of choice.’
Last week Kellogg announced it was launching its first gluten-free breakfast cereal in the UK in January
It said its Gluten Free Organic Puffed Corn Cereal had secured listings with ‘major’ supermarkets and was supported by the group’s £7m Kellogg’s “masterbrand” marketing campaign in 2015.
A spokesperson for Kellogg said: ‘Shoppers have been crying out for a gluten-free cereal from Kellogg’s and our new Puffed Corn Cereal gives us and our retail partners a brilliant opportunity to grow the “free from” category.
‘More and more shoppers want to make healthy choices, but most gluten free products are manufactured by unfamiliar brands they’re not sure they can trust.’
Gluten is a protein found in grains including wheat, rye and barley, and many who give it up claim to have more energy, better sleep, less water retention and weight loss.
But less than one per cent of the population actually suffers from coeliac disease – a serious autoimmune illness characterised by gluten intolerance – so most dieticians say there is no real benefit, yet the trend to eliminate it from the dinner table has exploded in recent years.
Gluten-free eating is popular with many celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Weisz, Russell Crowe and Victoria Beckham, and in 2011 world tennis Number One Novac Djokovic credited a gluten-free diet with helping change his game around.
He had crashed out of several tournaments and collapsed in the 2010 Australian Open, but the following year after adopting a gluten-free diet he was virtually unbeatable and said: ‘My movement is much sharper and I feel great physically.’
The Clintons are also famous gluten-free eaters, and Bill Clinton adopted a gluten free diet after heart surgery in 2010, while his daughter Chelsea had a gluten free cake at her wedding, and a baby shower with a 99 per cent gluten-free menu.