When a reporter inquired about why it was hard to find bucatini in stores, the National Pasta Association wanted to help her get answers. That reporter’s quest turned into a viral article that boosted the profile of pasta and the work of the association.
In the last month, if you were anywhere on social media, you might have stumbled across the article, “What the Hole Is Going On? The Very Real, Totally Bizarre Bucatini Shortage of 2020.” The hilarious “investigative” piece, which went viral shortly after it was published in late December, seeks answers for why the bucatini shape of pasta became nearly impossible to find during the pandemic.
“While bucatini is pretty regularly seen in recipes, this article and the positive press have built interest,” Murphy said. “We’ve gotten a lot of comments that it’s influencing people to go out and look for bucatini. Also, people are trying new shapes, and more people are interested in pasta.”
Reporter Rachel Handler decided early on in the article the NPA could help in her quest to understand why she couldn’t get her beloved pasta shape. NPA Chairman Carl Zuanelli is mentioned 15 times in the story, explaining the intricacies of pasta labeling after Handler discovered a specific brand of bucatini had been blocked from import. He also relayed what members had told him about their bucatini production: They were cutting back on less popular shapes—like bucatini—to meet high demand for other shapes, like spaghetti.
While Murphy had no idea the article would become such a sensation when Handler contacted NPA, she said speaking about the bucatini mystery is par for the course for the association. “We get requests all the time about information on pasta, the types, the health benefits,” Murphy said. “Because NPA and Carl were such a helpful resource, Rachel really did come back several times to get more information.”
The article noted that De Cecco’s bucatini was blocked by the Food and Drug Administration because it didn’t meet the “standards of identity.” While NPA had looked loosely at the standards in 2019, Murphy said that information spurred the group to talk to members and be more active on the issue.
“The government affairs committee sent a letter at the end of 2020 to the FDA for suggestions to update the standards of identity to pasta,” Murphy said. “We’re in the process of requesting a meeting with the FDA to discuss those suggestions and see how NPA can help in the process or be a resource. This is something that is important to NPA and something that is a priority moving forward.”
Murphy said the article has been very positive for the association—from bringing to the forefront the standards of identity issue to the spate of positive attention on pasta.
“Our mission is always to encourage the consumption of pasta,” Murphy said. “So, all of this positive press has just led to people talking more about their love for pasta and sharing pasta. We’re really viewing this article as a love letter to pasta.”