How the Pasta Association Came Back After Gluten-Free Trend

A few years back, anti-carb and gluten-free diet trends swept the country. Here’s how the National Pasta Association faced the challenge, plus a few lessons learned along the way.

WIth the anti-carb sentiment running high a few years back, the National Pasta Association (NPA) decided it wanted to try to win back positive sentiment with a consumer-facing education program.

“Several years ago, during the height of the anti-carb and gluten-free diet trend, the pasta industry believed it was important to proactively communicate the positive messages about pasta in the diet, as well as dispel any myths around pasta and correct any misinformation from a nutritional standpoint,” said Alexandra Ozerkis, senior account supervisor at Kellen.

NPA’s communications committee ended up working with Kellen to develop the Pasta Fits program, a consumer-facing culinary and education program, ultimately aimed at protecting and promoting the pasta industry. The hub of the program is its website——which is supported by a strategic digital-marketing campaign that delivers fact-based information about the health and convenience benefits of pasta, as well as its cost-effectiveness.

To get these messages across to consumers—specifically those consumers with the buying power in the household—NPA created strategic content that includes everything from a Pasta Shapes Dictionary to a host of information on nutrition and diet. The website also contains an array of recipes.

The program has been around for five-plus years, and it’s been successful. In fact, pasta was included as one of the top-five food trends in Google’s 2016 Food Trends Report.

Here are a few factors that contributed to its success:

Stay on top of the news and trends. “It’s important to be thoughtful about the issues and challenges that may face an industry at all times,” Ozerkis said. In fact, tracking emerging issues, potential threats, and potential challenges should perhaps be part of the communications function at your association. “Be aware of them, so you can respond if needed, or prepare a plan to address something should it escalate,” she said.

Identify which content works. Ozerkis said that paying close attention to the digital content that is most effective is key. “We’ve been able to identify what our target audience is responding to, what types of content they’re looking for, and really approaching it in terms of a problem-solution orientation, so if they’re looking for specific types of recipes that make their lives easier, that’s the type of content we want to deliver,” she said. “Doing research to identify what your audiences respond to will help drive engagement and effectiveness of whatever tactics you’re implementing.”

For example, NPA found that Pasta Fits “Pasta Shapes Dictionary” was consistently a top performer. “To maximize the visitor’s experience on the site and drive engagement within the Pasta Fits content, we added a new feature grouping and linking all Pasta Fits recipes per pasta shape within the Pasta Shapes Dictionary,” she said.

Keep nimble on social media. With Pasta Fits, NPA has found that it’s getting the most traction on Instagram.We see the highest engagement rates on Instagram, as well as overwhelmingly positive sentiment; the passion index for pasta is the highest of any major social media platform,” Ozerkis said. “That’s why we’ve started investing in more Instagram-friendly photos and video for Pasta Fits.”

What has your association found successful in weathering a similar type of challenge? Please leave your comments below.

(BWFolsom/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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