The world may never see a gay family call Barilla pasta “very, very good” on TV – or possibly at the dinner table, food marketing experts say – after the president of the company that manufactures that household brand said Thursday on Italian radio that he will never run an ad with a gay family.
“For us, the family [is] sacred and remains a core value of our company,” Guido Barilla told La Zanzara of Radio 24.
Barilla added that he is personally in favor of gay marriage, but not adoption by gay parents.
Barilla Group did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment at the time of publication.
Food marketing experts say airing personal views may take a toll on the company's sales.
“It seems like bad marketing to me for Barilla to make an explicit statement about who they would exclude from ads, when in reality, they could simply not pick to include them,” said John Stanton, food-marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
Barilla’s profits soared to $81 million in 2012 from $36 million in 2010. It’s unclear what impact, if any, Guido Barilla’s statements will have on the privately held company.
The company is a leading maker of pasta products that are sold in many countries and is widely known in the U.S. for its TV advertising featuring various people, often amid family scenes, saying: “Barilla – very, very good!”
U.S. fast-food chain Chik-fil-A’s vocal stance against gay marriage caused an uproar in 2012, with mass protests and boycotts against the restaurants taking place across the United States. Stanton said that while Chik-fil-A’s supporters rallied to purchase sandwiches last year, banking on anti-gay customers is never a sustainable enterprise.
“The people who supported [Chik-fil-A] weren’t going to do that forever,” Stanton said.
Chik-fil-A’s sales rose to $4.6 billion in 2012, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. The 2013 sales figures will indicate whether its fall-out with the gay community will take a long-term toll on business.
Meanwhile, it seems Barilla is already trying to do damage control, as the hashtag #boicottbarilla circulates around Twitter.
“I apologize if my words have led to misunderstanding or polemic,” Barilla wrote on Facebook, “I have the utmost respect for homosexuals and freedom of expression for everyone.”
“Barilla in its advertisements has always chosen to represent the family, because it is a symbol of hospitality and affection for everyone,” he added.