Calls to boycott the world’s largest pasta company Barilla are growing after its chairman said he would never feature a gay couple in advertisements for its products as he didn’t “agree with” homosexuals, and that anyone who was offended should eat another pasta brand.
The comments have also resulted in one Australian pasta company, Leggo’s, telling the Star Observer today that its products were meant to be loved by everyone.
Guido Barilla, who along with his two brothers runs the family-owned business, made the comments on Wednesday during an interview with La Zanzara on Italian station Radio24.
The powerful businessman also said that while he supported same-sex marriage he believed gay people should be prevented from adopting children. The comments came in response to a question from the interviewer about why Barilla didn’t include gay people in its advertising.
“We have a slightly different culture,” Barilla said according to a translation. “For us, the ‘sacral family’ remains one of the company’s core values. Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don’t like that, they will eat someone else’s pasta.
“You can’t always please everyone not to displease anyone. 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. The women are crucial in this.”
The owner of the company, first founded in 1877, then seemingly suggested that gay people adopting was a potential danger to children.
“I respect same-sex marriage because that concerns people who want to contract marriage, but I absolutely don’t respect adoptions in gay families, because that concerns a person who is not the people who decide,” he added.
As reporting of Barilla’s comments spread across Europe and the US this week, angry customers and members of the gay community took to social networks to vent their disgust at the company with some others calling for a boycott, including US-based LGBT advocacy organisation GLAAD.
Many took to Twitter where the hashtags #BoicottBarilla and #BoycottBarilla began trending, while a petition hosted on Change.org and supported by GLAAD calls on US supermarket chains to pull Barilla products.
“These comments are unacceptable and you should be concerned that this man’s brand lives on your shelves,” the petition reads. “I strongly urge you to stop carrying Barilla products in your stores.”
Barilla’s Facebook page for its US division which has almost 350,000 ‘likes’ has also been swamped by consumers voicing their discontent with the company’s anti-gay position.
“I am straight woman, and I am done with Barilla,” Tracy Vonder Haar posted.
“Guess what? I WILL take my money elsewhere. You deserve an F for Fatuous,” another woman, Heather Cutler, wrote.
“I will no longer purchase your products due to Guido Barilla’s homophobic statement,” another man wrote.
Clearly reeling from the pressure, Barillo took to Facebook to deliver an apology.
“Regarding my comments at the radio program La Zanzara, I [apologise] if my words generated misunderstandings or controversy or if they hurt some people’s feelings,” Barilla wrote on the company’s Facebook page.
“In the interview I just wanted to underline the centrality of the woman’s role in the family. To be clear, I just want to specify that I do have great respect of every person, without any kind of distinction. I do respect gay people and everybody’s freedom of expression. I also said I do respect gay marriage. Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is the symbol of hospitality and affection for everyone.”
From its humble beginnings as a pasta shop in Parma, Barilla now exports to more than 100 countries and boasts 15 brands, including Mulino Bianco, Voiello, Pavesi and Wasa, in addition to its world-famous Barilla pasta and pasta sauces. The company employs more than 13,000 people worldwide and recorded $4.6 billion in net sales in 2012. Guido Barilla has been chairman since 1993.
Late today, a spokesperson for Leggo’s, which was founded over 100 years ago, told the Star Observer it was well aware of the comments made by Guido Barilla.
“We think pasta should be enjoyed by everyone! That’s why we share our love for Italian food with all,” a Leggo’s spokesperson said on the company’s Facebook page.
Local gay activist Nathan Thomas told the Star Observer that he would no longer be purchasing Barilla products and called on other members of the community to support a boycott against the company.
“I don’t buy any products from businesses that I know do not support equal rights for all,” he said.
“Barilla pasta will no longer be on my dinner table and I have sent the information to my family too so they can join in.”
The Star Observer has attempted to contact a number of other pasta companies for a response as well.