ROME — Italy-based pasta maker Barilla is pledging to improve diversity after gay rights activists and allies launched a worldwide boycott of its products when a company executive said Barilla would never feature ads depicting gay families.
Barilla says it has newly established a board to develop diversity goals and strategies. It said in a statement Monday that former F-1 driver Alex Zanardi, who lost his legs in a car crash, and prominent gay rights activist David Mixner agreed to serve on the board.
In September, Barilla sparked calls for a global boycott after chairman Guido Barilla said, “I would never do an advert with a homosexual family…if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.”
Many of the company’s ads depict heterosexual couples with children gathered for meals.
Guido Barilla said “the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company.”
The calls were particularly strong in the U.S., where sales account for 10 percent of Barilla’s revenues.
Barilla Chief Executive Officer Claudio Colzani said Monday the company is “committed to promoting diversity further because we firmly believe that it’s the right thing to do.”
As part of its campaign, Barilla said it will launch a global online contest in 2014 “designed to engage people on diversity, inclusion and equality.”
Entrants will be asked to create short videos that represent the “multifaceted nature of pasta” — and presumably promote Barilla products — which will be submitted to the web community to be liked, shared and voted on.