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Barilla: history in the making

Parma the 19th century, the city gave birth to Barilla – once a small pasta shop, and now an international ambassador of Italian cuisine.

Pastificio BarillaBarilla was started by Pietro Barilla senior (1845–1912), a descendent of a noted family of bread bakers that can be traced back to 1576. Pietro opened his operation in Parma on via Vittorio Emanuele in 1877. The company grew consistently over time and in 1910 the Barriera Vittorio Emanuale pasta factory was built. Pietro’s sons Gualtiero (1881-1919) and Riccardo (1880-1947) succeeded him. Gualtiero died young in 1919, leaving Riccardo the reigns of the company. He controlled Barilla with his wife Virginia until 1947.

After World War II, under the leadership of Riccardo’s sons Pietro (1913–1993) and Gianni (1917-2004), Barilla was set for great growth.  During the Fifties, Barilla built a new factory on via Veneto (1957) and experimented with its product line. In the Sixties, a breadstick and bread factory was built in Rubbiano (1965) and another in Pedrignano (1969), the largest food production factory in the world.

Thanks to the experience Pietro Barilla gained during his trip to America in 1951, he was able to guide the company in the right direction. Pietro, who had been working for the company since 1936, recognized the importance of technological innovation. He experimented with a continuous production cycle and improved the quality and quantity of the product. He worked on food safety, distribution, and advertising, causing the company to grow from a regional to national reality in just a decade. The company was becoming a international model of Italian culture.

After completing the renovation and expansion of the factory on via Veneto factory (now viale Barilla), Barilla was producing over 1 million pounds of pasta a day. Based on market demand, the company gave up on the idea of building another factory in the area and began planning the move to Pedrignano. In 1960, at the height of the economic boom, Barilla became a Italian S.p.A. registered company, concluding this decade of growth.

In 1970, Gianni and Pietro Barilla sold the family business to the multinational American company Grace. But in 1979, Pietro Barilla was finally able to acquire a majority holding in the company. This brought considerable grown and notoriety to the company until September 1993.

Under Pietro’s control, Barilla experienced a technological overhaul, the development of new product lines and factories and various communication campaigns. A generous benefactor, Pietro donated to the University of Parma a new engineering department built in 1987. He was also a passionate art collector and shared his collection with the public in 1993 in celebration of his 80th birthday. He also had a fountain sculpted by Pietro Cascella (1921–2008) for a piazza in Parma in 1994.

BarillaPietro passed away in 1993 and his sons, Guido, Luca and Paolo, took over the family business. The boys completely reorganized the company internally and expanded into the international market. During this phase, they acquired Misko, the leading Greek pasta producer, and Filiz, Turkish pasta makers. They also built their first Italian-owned pasta factory in America. Construction started in 1998 and Barilla America was inaugurated on June 25, 1999 in Ames, Iowa.

Entering into the new millennium, Barilla remains the leading pasta producer in the world and the leading baked goods producer in Europe, with the brands Mulino Bianco (established in 1976) and Wasa (established in 1999). Both Voiello (1975) and Pavesi (1992) are also owned by Barilla.

Born out of a small pasta and bread store built over 100 years ago, today Barilla is the leading Italian food producer. The company has 25 factories (20 in Italy and 5 abroad) and directly operates 6 mills that turn out over 70% of the ingredients they use.

Barilla is focused on customer satisfaction, health and the environment. Barilla is known worldwide for the quality of its products, the fruit of investments in research, innovation and technology.