The recession has failed to stop shoppers from ditching supermarket own-label pasta for pricier branded alternatives, new data from IRI has revealed.

Total pasta sales are up 16.1% in value and 5.0% in volume with dry pasta driving the market with a value sales growth of 23.8% year-on-year on volume rises of just 5.5% [TNS 52w/e 9 August 2009].

The increasing spend on pasta has been driven by a combination of higher prices and consumers switching to more expensive brands, causing own-label pasta to fall 19.4% in value to £104.66m and 31.4% in volume [IRI 52w/e 3 October 2009].

Sales of the biggest brand of dry pasta, Napolina, grew 13.7% in value to £29.38m and 17.4% in volume, while the number two brand Buitoni rose 24.6% in value and 24.7% in volume [IRI].

Napolina marketing director Remmelt Jongkind said: "Our bronze die pasta is proving especially popular with consumers volume sales have grown 68% over the past year."

The Grocer 33 indicates that the price of own-label pasta is starting to fall, in line with the cost of wheat, which has fallen to just £128 a tonne from its peak of £200 a tonne in February 2008. However, the lag between wheat prices and shelf prices mean the effect will not have been felt in the sales figures this year.

The rise in the popularity of branded pastas comes as Jamie Oliver prepares to revamp the packaging for his ambient pasta and pasta sauces. The new brightly coloured packs, created by design agency Pearlfisher, will appear in February.

Focus On Pasta & Pasta Sauces