The Economist looks at how supermarket shelves stripped bare by stockpilers were familiar scenes as anxious shoppers loaded up with toilet rolls and pasta when lockdowns were first imposed.
The taste for long-lasting dried food has been a boon for Italy, a country in deep recession.
Although Italians remain the biggest eaters of pasta worldwide, munching through 23kg per head annually, the country’s pasta-makers export 60% of their production, mostly to Europe and America.
While stuck at home far more cooks made plates of spaghetti, fettuccine and farfalle. According to ISTAT the Italian statistics agency, exports of pasta increased by 30% in the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2019.
Barilla, the world’s biggest pasta-maker with sales of €3.6bn ($4.2bn) last year, must keep up with increased demand for its core product. The 143-year-old family firm also owns Wasa, the world’s biggest maker of Swedish crisp bread, as well as a host of smaller snack brands.
The company’s high-tech headquarters in Parma operated at close to capacity, producing 1,000 tonnes a day, throughout Italy’s harsh lockdown in spring. Some other Barilla factories produced more pasta than ever, says Bastian Diegel of Barilla in Germany, albeit at significantly higher cost thanks to the additional safety measures. It continued to make all of its 120 varieties.