Retailers who spoke with SN were surprised to hear that ACNeilsen, Schaumberg, Ill., reported declines in several categories of dry pasta.
Dry dinners held their ground but went down in units, for the year ended December 5, 1998. Pasta (macaroni) was off by 2.2% in dollars and 1.4% in units, while spaghetti was down by 3.4% in dollar sales and 4% in units.
Sauce was down 2.1% in dollar volume and 2.4% in units. That category as a whole is $1.3 billion a year, ACNeilsen said.
"Have you experienced a decline?" SN asked. "Not at Mollie Stone's. Dry pasta is a booming category for us," said David Bennett, co-owner of the Mill Valley, Calif., independent. "I might tend to agree [that] some of the more typical household brands have seen drop off, but our customers have decided to shift to imported brands."
Bernie Rogan, spokesman for Shaw's Supermarkets in East Bridgewater, Mass., also reported a shift to imported pasta.
"In our stores, we have an incredible amount of pasta," said Rogan. He said 56 feet of pasta is typical in a larger Shaw's unit, which is about 50,000 square feet. The pasta aisle contains 230 stock-keeping units of pasta, on average, and 150 SKUs of sauce. Sauce occupies about 20 feet.
"It's growing all the time; we're always adding new flavors in pastas, like tomato and basil, lemon and pepper, lemon and garlic, and spinach, both imported and domestic brands," Rogan said. "Imported pastas are increasing in sales more than the domestics, but both of them are increasing in New England."
"We might be down in dollar sales, because we are promoting some of the imports at as low a price as the Muellers and Princes," said Tom Johnston, co-owner of three IGA stores in Michigan.
''That's how I think we've been able to keep our sales about the same, but our dollars are off a little bit."