Barilla pushing pasta as a healthy alternative


Pasta is good for you. That’s the message Italian pasta maker Barilla hopes to deliver convincingly to an American public fast becoming distrustful of all things bread. From carb counters to gluten-fearing consumers, American eaters are moving away from bread-based diets at a fast rate.

Meanwhile, the so-called Mediterranean diet is all the rage, a dichotomy Barilla CEO Guido Barilla can’t quite square. Thin and undoubtedly in shape, Barilla says he eats pasta daily, sometimes twice, and calls it the basis of the real Mediterranean diet.

While the company adjusts its sauce products to suit American tastes – more spices and sugar – if they can’t get folks to eat pasta, their efforts are all in vain.

So, the uphill battle faced by Barilla is two-fold. They must simultaneously kowtow to American preferences while also somehow convincing Americans that their ideas about food are wrong. It’s the latter that Barilla takes on most directly. In CNN reports, the CEO has plainly stated American consumers don’t “know the facts.” He argues that Americans think they know what’s good for them, but are simply buying into propaganda.

If that argument fails, Barilla is already working on a backup plan. Instead of just telling people they are wrong – a tough sell no matter what the subject is – his company is suggesting people explore the differences between carbs in white bread and donuts and the carbs in pasta.

This is an argument that may find more traction. People are much more willing to explore and learn than they are to believe they are just flat out wrong. Trying to get someone to just “believe” they have been duped is all but impossible. Just look at social media. Doesn’t matter the topic, any comment that says: “you’re wrong” is nearly always met with derision or outright profanity. People don’t like being told they are wrong.

Conversely, they really don’t mind being told one thing is different, even if only slightly, than something else. People love choosing one thing over another. The trick is for Barilla to make people think the choice is their idea. If he can do that, he’s really onto something.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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