Can private label get a larger slice of America’s love for Italian food?
It’s no secret that American’s love their Italian specialties. In a 2019 YouGov survey, 88% of Americans said that they like Italian food, making it the country’s most popular non-American type of cuisine. While many Americans are most familiar with pizza, there also is the fact that pasta, sauces and olive oil have become pantry staples nationwide, and the profile of these items has only been increased by the pandemic — in particular those sourced from Italy.
Earlier this year, Italian market research firm Doxa carried out a survey on behalf of the Italian Food Union and the ICE Agency that found 56% of American respondents saying they eat consumer pasta between one and four times per week. One in four of the 5,000 people surveyed across Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. reported increasing their pasta consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown. Additionally, pasta consumption increased by 40% in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Romania, outpacing the growth of such countries as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The International Pasta Association noted that, per the Italian Food Union, 1 in 4 pasta dishes in the world is Italian, and Italian pasta exports have seen 25% growth in the first six months of 2020. That’s growth on top of the export record that Italy set in 2019, when it grew exports by 7.5% over 2018.
He said that when retailers work with companies that have solid sourcing capabilities overseas, they are able to keep up with emerging trends and subsequently add unique offerings to their private label portfolios.
“Obviously, you need your mainstream flavors to drive productivity, but since we have multiple facilities in Italy and across Europe, we try to bring our private label partners different ideas,” he said. “This includes things that maybe aren’t available right now in a store in the United States, but we’re seeing as an emerging trend in Italy. These different types of formulations that we can provide bring that value and mainstream flavors, as well as a unique flavor that you wouldn’t often find in a private label brand to create some more value around the store brands that we’re supporting.”
Among the unique imported offerings among Target’s Good & Gather Signature line is the Alfredo Truffle sauce and a Butternut Squash sauce, which accompany mainstays that include marinara, arrabiata and tomato and basil, and a Rustic Vegetable sauce.
A critical part of distinguishing imported items in the mid- to upper tiers is making it stand out on the shelf. Laudiero said that he has seen retailers upgrade packaging to opaque matte plastic and outer paper with a plastic interior.
“They’re obviously setting up a stand-alone brand like they’ve been doing for a while, but now they’re putting an effort into the brand, the story and the packaging design,” he said. “This is a trend that’s been happening for quite a few years and it doesn’t seem like everyone has caught on yet — but they’re getting there.”