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Jan 6, 2010 03:06 PM

Pasta Price Fixing

"Italian prosecutors suspect five of the country's largest pasta producers, which together account for 90% of all Italian pasta production, of being involved in a price-fixing scheme. These producers -- which include Barilla and De Cecco, brands familiar to American shoppers -- are being accused by the government of forming a cartello della pasta (pasta cartel) and have been summoned by authorities to explain the spike in pasta prices."

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  1. Barilla (my favorite) goes on sale regularly the the local supermarket for $1 a pound, all types. If that's gouging, I can live with it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BobB

      The Barilla pasta that is sold in US is made here. Check the info on the box. It is not imported from Italy. That doesn't (imho) make this incident okay... just fyi.

    2. Here Barilla is only $1 per box if it is on sale (western MA). Typically it is $1.50. De Cecco is $2-$3 per box depending on the store. I have personally witnessed (as one who buys pasta weekly for years) these prices increase 50-100 percent in the last five years. De Cecco used to be my pasta, but I simply cannot afford it any more.

      1. Like a lot of things, this might be corn's fault. Although it's moderating, farmers who formerly planted wheat switched to corn to cash in on record corn prices (despite rising production). Ethanol is tanking with lower oil prices, so corn is on the way down, which means that probably people will start planting wheat again.

        That doesn't meant they aren't price-fixing, of course.

        1. Well, someone in Italy woke up. The price fixing was going on for at least 20 years ago when I was in the business. De Cecco sent the standard, and this is, I think (though ask industry experts) why Barilla moved their plants to the US. Everyone screamed at the way De Cecco ran the market, with certain favoritisms given to their distributors. They figured out price-fixing long ago. Even so, I love their pasta, and it is all I buy, with my figurative nose pinched.

          5 Replies
          1. re: pitterpatter

            De Cecco is also my standard; I have tried Barilla and numerous others from co-ops to higher-priced grocery stores' proprietary brands, and nothing has ever come close. Even at $3.70, which is standard in my area (MSP) it really is a bargain considering a pound will make at least 4 portions.

            1. re: SmartCookie

              I curious to know what characteristics this pasta has that makes this worth 3-4 times more than the other brands available on market shelves.


              1. re: LStaff

                I couldn't tell you, but I know my family that lives in Italy (which is my father's entire side) all use Barilla.

                1. re: LStaff

                  De Cecco is generally considered one of the best of the mass-market pastas in Italy, though there are other respected brands. The company claims that the mountain-spring water it uses makes its pasta inimitable, and I've never heard that dismissed as total bunk (they are in Abruzzo), but the most obvious characteristic of De Cecco is that it is extruded through bronze dies, which impart a desirable rough texture to the pasta. De Cecco is particularly easy to cook -- it holds its al dente very well. I think of it as "forgiving." That said, I've been buying the pasta of small producers at the gourmet store. If you run your fingers up and down a Barilla spaghetto and a De Cecco, you'll be struck by the smoothness of the Barilla and the roughness of the De Cecco. Other variables are the quality of the wheat (and in this respect I have heard unconfirmed reports that US-made Barilla is better than Italian-made) and the drying process. Slow drying at low temperature is better than fast drying at high temperature.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    I'm a pasta snob but I find Barilla to be wholly acceptable (which sounds like a faint compliment, but from me is not).