Consumer groups in Europe are calling on shoppers to boycott large pasta manufacturers, including Barilla, De Cecco, and La Molisana in Italy, and Panzani in France, due to what they believe are unjustified price increases. The consumer groups are urging these pasta producers to cut prices as Italian consumer unions call for an investigation into possible price manipulation, stating that the price hikes have been inexplicable.
While pasta manufacturers claim that the price rises are a result of higher production costs caused by the conflict in Ukraine, consumer groups argue that this is not the reality. They accuse food producers of profiteering and “greedflation,” as pasta prices have risen significantly higher than the broader inflation rates across Europe, despite a sharp drop in the price of the wheat used to make pasta.
Italian consumer group Codacons reveals that the year-on-year price hikes for pasta are twice the current rate of inflation. Consequently, another Italian consumer association, Assoutenti, has called for a week-long “pasta strike” starting next week, encouraging people to boycott the product and make pasta at home instead. Official statistics show that pasta prices in Italy were still 14% higher year-on-year last month, adding to the urgency of the consumer groups’ demands.
The high prices of pasta have become a significant concern for Italian families, who are the world’s biggest pasta eaters, consuming approximately 23 kilograms of pasta per year. Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital, states that this is a fairly existential crisis for Italian families. The consumer groups argue that the soaring prices have caused a financial burden for these families, and they urge manufacturers to lower their prices accordingly.
In the United Kingdom, pasta price inflation reached 27.6% in April, while Germany and France reported figures of 21.8% and 21.4% respectively. This emphasizes the widespread nature of the issue, prompting calls for action across Europe.
Luigi Cristiano Laurenza, the general secretary of trade organization Unione Italian Food Pasta, defends the pasta makers, claiming that they have faced higher energy, logistics, and packaging costs as a result of the Ukraine crisis. However, despite the decline in grain prices, consumer prices are anticipated to remain high as producers continue to use up the stocks of wheat they purchased at peak costs.
The situation in France has prompted the government to threaten pasta producers with financial penalties. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire stated in May that companies refusing to negotiate lower prices will face a tax levy. Le Maire criticized food manufacturers for a lack of transparency and accused them of “hiding behind” excuses.
The consumer groups’ boycott and demands for lower pasta prices highlight the urgent need for action to address the soaring prices. The pasta manufacturers will need to address these concerns and consider adjusting their pricing strategies to regain consumer trust and loyalty. It remains to be seen how the industry will respond to the boycott and the growing pressure from consumer groups.