A new pasta-based snack product from Italy claims to be the first frozen product of its kind with the sauce already added - a USP which its producers hope will help it crack the important US market.
Very Italiano IQF (Individual Quick Frozen) microwaveable pasta snacks were launched in Italy and other western European markets last year, but the Italian firm behind the brand is hoping to push sales this year not only to the US but also to eastern Europe and Asia.
Paolo Lupini of Very Italiano said that the product was designed to combine the gastronomic tradition of Italy - using the best ingredients and know-how - with modern demands for convenience. The pasta snack is also said to be healthier and more balanced (each pot contains no more than 350 calories) than many rival snack products.
The brand packaging is also distinctive, with the tall, narrow container similar in shape to a plastic cup designed to be held comfortably in one hand for consumers wanting to eat 'on-the-go'. It also features what the company calls the 'strap flap' opening, a simple closure which removes the need for a pot top.
But Lupini said that the real unique selling point of the product was a patented technique which enables the pasta to be frozen with the sauce already added, rather than keeping the sauce in a separate pot to be added once the product has been reheated. Because this method takes up less space in the package, the contents can be frozen more quickly and efficiently.
The product comes in nine different varieties - Penne with Arrabbiata-style sauce, Tomato Tricoloured Chiocciola (pasta in the shape of @ which the company claims is unique to this product), Genoese Pesto Chiocciola, Macaroni/Sedani with Puttanesca-style sauce, Vegetarian Rice, Seafood Spaghetti, Fusilli/Spaghetti with Carbonara-style sauce, Tortellini with Cream, Ricotta and Spinach Tortelloni with Tomato sauce - and in single-serve packs of 250 grams each.
It is sold through a wide variety of distribution channels, including horeca and even vending machines which also include a micorowave which allow consumers to heat the snack and consume it immediately. It also comes with a disposable kit containing a serviette, a plastic fork and a handy cup-holder.
The brand is targeted at consumers aged 13-44, but the core audience is expected to be people aged 18 and 34 years of age, a segment of the population which Lupini said had a predeliction for savoury snacks and a greater responsiveness to new products.