November 6, 2013
After its chairman sparked widespread criticism by saying he would never use a gay couple or family in his advertising, pasta maker Barilla now says it plans to make the company more diverse and to run a more inclusive TV-ad campaign, Reuters reports. Guido Barilla’s remarks to a radio interviewer in September led to calls from gay-rights groups to boycott the products of the world’s largest pasta maker, which is based in the provincial Italian city of Parma.
Barilla, the 55-year-old great-grandson of the company’s founder, reportedly has since held at least eight meetings with gay-activist organizations both in Italy — which has been struggling through its worst recession in six decades — and in the United States, now the company’s second-biggest pasta market.
“The meetings have helped open our eyes and ears to the evolution taking place in the world outside Parma,” a company spokesman said. “We are already working on new advertising concepts that will be much more open and much more inclusive.”
Carlos Dews, an English professor at Rome’s John Cabot University who is gay and has boycotted Barilla products, said the company’s new measures were a step in the right direction but “may all be window dressing.” Barilla reportedly will participate in the U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign’s corporate-equality index, which rates companies’ policies relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. — Greg Beaubien