#156 Barilla, not for everyone?

In 2013, one of the most successful multinational Italian companies, privately held past maker Barilla, almost stumbled over the comments of its chairman, Guido Barilla. When interviewed on Radio24, a national radio station, he expanded on how Barilla is rooted in traditional family values and why they would therefore never show a homosexual couple in their promotion. To make things worse, he added that gay customers who wouldn’t agree with Barilla’s position, could just buy their pasta from another brand. And so they did. Social media exploded with outrage, celebrities publicly shamed the pasta maker, and sales started to drop. While the immediate financial impact of consumer boycotts for the company that sells $2.4 bn worth of pasta annually was not too dramatic – fast-moving consumer goods like pasta move more by price than anything else – the long-term damage to the brand appeared to be potentially devastating. Especially in foreign markets of the West that care about diversity and about gay rights, but also in smaller pockets of the global LGBT community worldwide. Barilla has learned from this experience lemon and made lemonade from it. It launched a diversity and inclusiveness initiative. As Bloomberg Business Week reports, Barilla’s CEO, Claudio Colzani, has worked hard over the last few years to embrace the fact that love comes in different forms – as different as the dozens of types of pasta in Barilla’s factories…

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