Barilla defies crisis with new Italian investment

Mon Oct 8, 2012 5:48pm EDT
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By Lisa Jucca

PARMA, Italy (Reuters) - The world's leading pasta-maker, Barilla, is defying Italy's recession by opening a 40-million-euro ($52 million) plant near its Parma home base, just as other big industrial names are pulling out of the country or freezing investments.

Prime Minister Mario Monti inaugurated the new factory on Monday for ready-made pasta sauces, a fast-developing market that adds to Barilla's 13 Italian plants and complements its core business of pasta varieties like spaghetti and penne.

The new plant, located in Italy's northern Emilia Romagna region, is a relatively modest investment, reflecting a drive by the 135-year-old company to keep up with cultural changes at home and abroad, or even lead them.

Barilla has its sights set on ever busier Italians, who have traditionally made their own pasta sauce, and fast-growing economies such as Brazil, where Italian cuisine is already popular, and China, which may be a tougher market to crack.

"Ready-made sauces are one of the most important ways to further develop our brand," Guido Barilla, Chairman of the family-owned company, told Reuters in an interview. "It made sense to build this plant here because Emilia Romagna produces some of the best tomatoes in the world."


Most of the workers at the new factory in Parma - whose ham and Parmesan cheese makes it Italy's food capital - will come from another plant. But it is a rare bright spot in Italy, where 140 large industrial sites are at risk of closure or shrinking.

Alcoa Inc is shutting its Italian aluminum smelter and domestic carmaker Fiat has frozen a multi-billion investment plan in the country due to adverse market conditions and competition from low-cost production outside Europe.   Continued...

Chef Tommaso Moroni shows how to make fresh sauce for pasta at the Barilla Academy in Parma October 8, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo