The market researcher has observed a 32 per cent increase in rice sales (by value) between 2007 and 2009, and a 21 per cent increase in pasta sales. Rice is expected to be worth some £388m in 2009, and pasta (including ready meals) £811m, according to the new report Pasta, Rice and Noodles UK 2009.
Vivianne Ihekweazu, senior consumer analyst at Mintel said: "Rice and pasta prices rocketed in 2008 due to global shortages, while the weakness of sterling has continued to keep retail prices high. Despite the rise in costs, there is no doubt that the recession has boosted the nation's appetite for these store cupboard staples, and they still provide a relatively affordable meal solution."
Ihekweazu added that the market has been stirred by greater interest in eating in; the influence of global cuisines (pasta is an Italian mainstay, and rice features in many Asian dishes); and in cooking at home from scratch.
At the same time, some of the sales growth has come from innovative products intended to be more convenient, such as microwavable rice and ready-to-cook products. The indication is that such products can be prepared by people who want to cook for themselves, but who may have varying levels of culinary skills.
For pasta at least, the boom appears to be something of a turnaround. In 2007 Mintel observed a slow-down in sales.
Dissecting the pasta market
Mintel reports that 92 per cent of British consumers eat pasta – a figure that bears testament to the downfall of once-popular diets that demonised carbohydrates, such as the Atkins Diet. Seventy-seven per cent of consumers eat dried pasta, and 46 per cent fresh.
However pasta appears to be viewed as a cheap filler, and varieties termed by Mintel as ‘healthy’ have a small market share: Eight per cent of consumers say they eat organic pasta, and 3 per cent said they eat gluten- or wheat-free pasta.
As for noodles, Mintel says the most popular kind of noddles are egg noodles, eaten by 49 per cent of Brits. Instant noodle meals like pot noodles, meanwhile, were eaten by as many as 33 per cent of consumers.
Long grain rice was seen to be the most popular, eaten by 59 per cent of consumers, followed by basmati with 57 per cent. Speciality rices like black and wild rice were eaten by just 8 per cent.