The Mediterranean diet is well known for its positive health effects, with no shortage of fresh vegetables, pastas and fish. As the rest of Europe takes note of the benefits of this lifestyle, Mintel’s Food and Drink Analyst for Poland, Regina Maiseviciute Haydon, looks at how growing interest in the Mediterranean diet and healthy lifestyles may result in new opportunities for wholegrain pasta or pasta with added value ingredients.

Polish consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious and aware of what goes into their food, with over five in 10 (57%) stating that they avoid food and drink that contain artificial sweeteners or additives or preservatives. Not only this but 45% of health-conscious Poles are prepared to change their lifestyles to be healthier. However, according to OECD research, in 2012 the rate of obesity grew to 15.8% of the population in Poland and so weight concerns will continue to shape the market.

Pasta is perceived as a generally healthy food by the majority of consumers and 74% of Poles believes it makes a healthy and nutritious meal. Poles are already fond of Italian cuisine, both pizza and pasta, but a growing awareness of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in Poland is also supporting the role of pasta as a part of regular eating habits.

Considering the Mediterranean diet focuses on the consumption of olive oil, unrefined cereals, fruit and vegetables, fish and dairy products (mostly cheese and yoghurt), with a low emphasis on meat products, pasta plays an important part overall. Polish consumers are especially interested in healthier varieties of pasta, such as wholewheat pasta, with over 4 in 10 (44%) buying it, more than any surveyed European country.

Health will continue to be an important aspect that manufacturers can consider in their product development strategies. Despite the widespread use of wholegrain claims, some brands are also taking the opportunity to cater to the trend for healthier varieties by launching products with added fiber, protein and vitamins.

In Poland, pastas featuring a variety of health claims are still niche, but they hold potential for innovation, especially among women. Over seven in 10 (74%) of female consumers in Poland would like to see pasta with functional benefits, for example omega-3 fortified or with added fibre. In addition, six in 10 (61%) female consumers would like to see pasta which is high in protein. The particularly strong attraction of these features among women is largely thanks to the positive associations of high protein and fibre foods with weight management.

Overall, we can therefore see wholegrain pasta is gaining ground in Poland as part of a healthy eating regime and in aid of weight management. And though other types of pasta, such as high fibre, protein or vitamin/mineral fortified are still niche in Poland, there is a lot of potential to explore this area. This is especially as an increasing number of Poles, particularly women, are keen to follow a healthy lifestyle.

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