American Industry Overview: Macaroni, Spaghetti, Vermicelli and Noodles
The dry pasta industry was a primary victim of the low-carbohydrate diet trend of the early twenty-first century. In the two decades from 1975 to 1995, Americans had increased their pasta consumption by 90 percent. Pasta was manufactured almost exclusively in the United States from durum semolina wheat. A growing consumer preference for nutritious, low-fat foods boosted the growth of the industry, nearly doubling mean annual per capita consumption between 1975 and 1995 to 24 pounds. In 1995, the typical consumer ate pasta an average of 2.7 times a week. The increased consumption was also due to a shift in consumer perceptions as it gained popularity among middle class and affluent adults and seniors, rather than being viewed as a meal for children or the working poor, as was the case during the 1960s.
All that changed with the dramatic shift toward low-carbohydrate diets. By 2003, dry pasta sales were losing 2 to 3 percent per year. The value of industry shipments declined steadily in the late 1990s, falling from nearly $1.8 billion in 1997 to $1.5 billion in 2002, a figure that is updated every five years by the U.S. Census. However, the aggressive marketing of whole grain and low-carbohydrate pasta food items buoyed sales by the mid-2000s. Still, in 2005 the retail market stood at $1.15 billion, a small drop overall of 1.3 percent from the previous total. By July 2007, dry pasta sales had jumped by 4.4 percent from the previous year to nearly $224 million.