Photograph courtesy of Trader Joe’s
While Trader Joe’s sells more than 30 types of pasta, the majority of which are made with wheat semolina, its best seller is a vegan, plant-based pasta alternative, the grocer revealed in its latest podcast titled, Trader Joe’s Noodles Around with Pasta and Olives.
“Our No. 1 selling pasta is the Hearts of Palm Pasta, which is actually made from a vegetable. We can’t even keep in stock because that’s how much people love it,” said Jasmine, category manager of grocery at Trader Joe’s.
The rise of popular diets including gluten-free, paleo and keto has opened the door to lower carb, vegetable-based pasta alternatives, notes Trader Joe’s marketing team members Matt Sloan and Tara Miller, who add that classic wheat-based Italian pastas continue to do “huge numbers in unit volume.”
“We have, I think, five different types of spaghettis. We have a whole wheat, we have a semolina, we have a yellow lentil and rice one for people who are gluten free and then we have, oh goodness, for the semolina one we have a conventional and organic, and now we’re going to have a third one, which is a tri-color,” Jasmine explained.
Trader Joe’s was encouraged to introduce a new tri-color pasta given the success of its Vegetable Radiatore pasta, a multi-colored, radiator-shaped dry pasta.
“We’re kind of looking at some of our pastas to see, you know, where we could draw inspiration from and we said, ‘Wait a minute, we don’t have anything multi-colored for long cuts,’ ” said Jasmine, adding, “You know, our customers are kind of gravitating towards more unique cuts. So we have some really fun shapes coming in. One of them is fusilli corti bucati, which is like a bucatini.”
Episode 40 of the Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s podcast also features an interview with one of the grocer’s Italian pasta suppliers. Identified simply as “Piero from Italy,” the supplier discussed the global nature of today’s pasta business.
“You may think that pasta coming from Italy is all made with Italian wheat. In this … globalized world it’s difficult to happen,” said Piero. “The total volume of the Italian wheat could never be able to cover, not only the Italian needs, but the worldwide needs of pasta.”
Piero’s business alone ships 4,500 to 5,000 pounds of pasta to the U.S. each year.
“I think the best pizza and the best pasta you can eat in the world is in Naples,” added Piero. “And you know what I put in second spot? I put New York. I put New York rather than any other places in Italy. And that’s because I believe, of the water.”
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