Barilla has had a rocky history with the LGBT community, but it has recently been making every step in the right direction. In collaboration with illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, the company recently released limited-edition boxes of spaghetti no. 5 featured lesbians sharing the same spaghetti noodle. These boxes were given away at the World Pasta Championship in Milan, which is sponsored by Barilla each year.
In 2013, Guido Barilla, chairman of Barilla, made homophobic comments in regards to Barilla’s advertising, stating that “I would never do an advert with a homosexual family… if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.”
Though he issued an apology soon after, his remarks led to a massive boycott of all Barilla products. However, in the span of just one year the company worked overtime to undo their mistake, and it worked. They improved health benefits for transgender employees and better diversified their own staff, as well as collaborated with and contributed money to gay rights organizations like Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and several others. Their most recent step forward as an LGBT ally was Zagnoli’s box illustration.
As Zagnoli stated, “It turns out while I was protesting in my kitchen Barilla made significant progress, radically redefining its code of ethics and adjusting its internal policies.”
Barilla’s swift and progressive actions speak to the company’s ability to learn from their mistakes and educate themselves, which serves as a model for other companies to do the same. Even if it’s a marketing ploy to save Barilla’s reputation, the mere fact that being gay friendly is considered good press now is a win for the community. At least now we have lesbians on a box. That has to count for something.