The chairman of Barilla Pasta, the world’s leading pasta manufacturer, weathered calls for a consumer boycott against him Thursday after telling Italian radio his company would never use a homosexual family in its ads.
A report from Reuters in Rome said that Guido Barilla, 55, chairman of one of the best-known pasta brands around the world and one of Italy’s biggest advertisers, told Radio 24 he is opposed to adoption by gay parents but in favor of allowing gay marriage, though it is illegal in Italy.
In response to a direct question about whether he would feature a “gay family” in his company’s commercials, Barilla said, “I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role.”
Barilla’s hallmark symbol for many years has been the image of a happy family countryside, with the slogan, “Where there’s Barilla, there’s home.”
“For us, the sacral family remains one of the company’s core values,” Barilla said. “Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it they will eat someone else’s brand,” he stated, according to the Huffington Post. “I would not do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect toward homosexuals – who have the right to do whatever they want without disturbing others – but because I don’t agree with them and I think we want to talk to traditional families.”
Aurelio Mancuso, head of gay rights group Equality Italia, called Barilla’s remarks an “offensive provocation” and urged a boycott of the company’s pasta, sauces, and snacks.
“We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta,” Mancuso said, sparking support for a boycott on social media.
Alessandro Zan, a gay member of parliament, tweeted, “You can’t mess around with consumers, including gay ones.”
On Thursday, Barilla issued a statement, explaining that he was trying to say “simply that the woman plays a central role in a family.”
“Barilla features families in its commercials because it embraces anyone, and they have always been identified with our brand,” he said.
“I apologize if my words generated misunderstandings or controversy or if they hurt some people’s feelings,” Barilla wrote on the company’s Facebook page Thursday, according to the Huffington Post.
In Barilla’s latest ad for its Mulino Bianco cookies and breakfast cakes, Spanish film star Antonio Banderas is featured baking biscuits with children and talking to a chicken named Rosita.
According to the Huffington Post, Italy “lags” behind the U.S. “on gay rights, with attitudes toward homosexuality complicated by the country’s strong ties to the Catholic church.”
Barilla Pasta was founded in 1877 in Parma, Italy, and now exports to more than 100 countries. The company had about $5.4 billion in net sales worldwide in 2012 and employs more than 13,000 people.