- Barilla reformulated its Protein+ pasta line so it's made entirely with plant-based ingredients. According to a release from the Italian company, the products contain semolina durum wheat and protein from peas, lentils and chickpeas.
- Barilla said the new recipe removed the egg whites but kept the same taste and texture as traditional semolina pasta. The company said the reformulation involves shorter cooking times for the seven varieties of Protein+ products.
- Jean-Pierre Comte, president of Barilla Americas, said in the release that the company is trying to offer products to meet the needs of consumers, including those who are following a plant-based lifestyle but want additional protein.
With the reformulation of its Protein+ lineup, Barilla said it is reaching out to consumers who are vegan and want to include more protein and fiber in their diet.
The reformulated Protein+ pasta products contain the same amount of protein — 10 grams per 2-ounce serving — as the previous recipe with egg whites. The new recipe also is Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan-certified and kosher, as well as a good source of iron, thiamin, folic acid, riboflavin and niacin, the company said. Those qualities could check multiple boxes for consumers today who are looking to shift to more plant-based foods.
Egg replacements in baking and other applications are becoming more popular, Food Ingredients First reported. Ingredient suppliers are developing substitutes that can stand in for eggs and offer similar emulsification stabilization and moistening properties. This has attracted the interest of food manufacturers that are using them in more of their products. Renmatix, which produces an egg replacement called Simple Cellulose, expanded its distribution last year to more food and beverage manufacturers.
Other pasta makers have found success by using chickpeas and other ingredients in their products, so Barilla will have competition. Banza, a company launched in 2014 that makes pasta from chickpeas, is a quickly growing brand that received $20 million in funding late last year to expand its reach in the food service sector.
Lesser-known pasta manufacturers have been busy coming up with their own unique recipes. Olo Foods and Explore Cuisine also make organic chickpea pasta. Chickapea produces pasta from organic chickpeas and red lentils. Tolerant Foods turns out organic lentil pasta, and Pasta Lensi makes individual pasta items from black beans and chickpeas, as well as red and yellow lentils.
Still, when a large global company such as Barilla switches up one of its pasta lines, it could end up being more influential than similar moves by other small pasta makers. It's possible additional CPG companies could follow suit if this reformulation proves successful. Barilla is used to developing products that follow current trends. In 2017, the company debuted microwaveable pasta pouches to make the product more convenient for busy consumers.
Innovation could be especially important since dry pasta sales have slid recently. According to IRI data, dollar sales of spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta besides noodles dropped 0.5% for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 24 of last year compared to the same period in 2018. Poor sales from American Italian Pasta and Riviana Foods, plus competition from vegetable-based options, were blamed for the decline. However, Barilla's dollar sales in the U.S. edged up 1% during that time, and dollar sales for its in-house brand were up 2.5%, so its strategy could be working.
Some consumers have turned away from wheat-based pasta due to "carbophobia" and concerns about too many calories impacting their health. According to Mintel, 41% of U.S. consumers think rice and other grains are healthier than pasta. Barilla is gambling that adding peas, lentils and chickpeas and removing egg whites could convince a number of them to take a look at a healthier and less carb-heavy version of the old favorite.