Pasta crisps: how Pastinos is reconstructing an Italian classic

The Italian brand is taking on the snacking market with its on-the-go vegan offering.

26 September 2019

From traditional favourites to contemporary experiments, snacks are satisfying consumer cravings around the world. The global snacking market grew $3.4bn (£2.73bn) in 2017, according to Nielsen figures.

Italian brand Pastinos is bringing together something old and something new to deliver a healthier, vegan alternative to traditional potato crisps in the form of cooked pasta pellets.

“We’ve made something relatable,” Kru Mistry, Pastinos’ operations manager, tells Food Spark. “Rather than trying to offer the next new ‘superfood’ that people have never heard of, we’ve reinvented a traditional Italian food, and we think that approach creates much more intrigue.”

The Italian job

Developed by two Italians, Pastinos was officially launched back in 2016, but the embryonic concepts began to form many years prior.

The chef behind the brand was inspired by the idea of taking pasta out of the restaurant environment and turning it into an on-the-go snack. After six years of experimentation with different kinds of pasta and cooking methods, Pastinos was ready to roll out.

Made from 100% durum wheat pasta, the snacks are cooked and shallow-fried ahead of seasoning.

“It doesn’t need to be deep-fried,” reveals Mistry. “It turns out that pasta holds its flavour quite well – much longer than crisps.”

While that lack of deep-frying doesn’t save much in terms of calories, the glycaemic index (GI) is significantly reduced.

“With crisps, the high GI level causes a bigger spike in your blood sugar, and has a sharp drop-off, which gives you that feeling of lethargy and a bit of a down feeling,” says Mistry.

“Whereas the energy release from pasta is much lower – it releases more slowly, and therefore doesn’t cause that spike. But by no means is it a piece of fruit! I certainly wouldn’t go as far as to call it something you should be eating throughout the day, but it’s a healthier alternative to the traditional crisp.”

A leap of faith

Pastinos’ flavour roster spans Arrabiatta Chilli and Tomato, Chianti & Olive, Classic Pesto, Tomato and Sweet Basil, along with its most recent addition, Four Cheese. The range is expected to roll out into Ocado in the near future.

“Some are very traditional, recognisable pasta flavours, while the others are specialised ones that, outside of Italy, probably aren’t that widely-known,” explains Mistry.“Chianti and Olive, for example, is a staple in Italy. It’s about balancing variety and authenticity.”

In its initial development, Four Cheese wasn’t anticipated to be a vegan product due to the difficulties of recreating the correct flavour with all-natural ingredients.

“We really wanted to bring it in line with the others in being vegan, though, and we found that using a yeast extract, we could recreate that flavour and maintain our vegan offering across the board,” comments Mistry.

The five flavours were decided in-house, with the staff wary that any that would be too experimental could scare off potential customers in the future.

“We didn’t want to put anyone off before we’d even got to market!” Mistry laughs. “We’re settled on the flavours that we have now. We took a bit of a leap of faith, but it’s paid off.”

Ready salted not on the slate

Looking forward, Pastinos is keen to stick to its guns and build its current offering before contemplating new ranges.

“We’re still fairly new in the market,” says Mistry, “so it would be good to get customers accustomed to these kinds of flavours, and then progress from there. We’d have to be very careful about future flavours – we want to maintain the authenticity of the brand. It’s not like we can go out and create a ready salted flavour. It has to be something that would fit in with the rest of the range.

“We’ve had a few people ask about gluten-free versions, and while there are no immediate plans in place, it’s certainly something we have to keep in mind alongside the development of future flavours.”

The main focus for now is to grow distribution and get customers used to the idea of pasta in this format, adds Mistry.

“It’d be great to get to the point where we’re immediately recognised on shelves by customers. That’s our goal at the moment,” he says.

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