The history of Barilla, the world leader in the dry pasta market, is the story of four generations of family success, originating in a late 19th-century baker’s shop in Parma. It is also the story of its patron, Pietro, who was forced to sell the company to Americans during the difficult period of terrorism that struck Italy in the 1970s, but who bought it back with entrepreneurial fantasy in 1979, despite everyone’s attempts to dissuade him. Among these was, first and foremost, Enrico Cuccia, the charismatic president of Mediobanca. “I’ve seen the accounts, and it’s not worth it. I cannot contribute to your ruin.” Instead, contrary to the predictions at the time, Barilla—together with Ferrero—became the great ambassador for “Made in Italy” in the world, while still remaining a family company at heart, tenaciously engaged in the defense of its product and not tempted by financial games.
In 1993, when Pietro Barilla died at the age of 80, the management of the society passed to his children Guido, Luca, Paolo, and Emanuela Barilla. The Emilia-Romagna-based company launched an internationalization process, with the acquisition of various foreign societies in the same sector, like the Greek Misko, the Turkish Filiz, the Swedish Wasa, the Mexican Yemina and Vesta, and the German Kamps AG, though the latter was ceded to the Czech group Agrofert in 2013. In Italy, Barilla acquired Pavesi in 1992.
Barilla’s investments in Italy continue: in October 2013, the Emilian group unveiled the largest automated warehouse in the world at its headquarters in Pedrignano. It occupies 40,000 square meters, with 80,000 pallet spaces and 120 trucks loaded daily—an investment of almost 15 million euro, whose crowning achievement is LGV (Laser Guided Vehicle) technology, standard equipment on the carts used for transportation and warehousing of goods, and the plant’s security software. The system involves devices that move without the assistance of wires or tracks, using a sophisticated software that identifies the orders, locates the pallets to warehouse or collect in real time, and interacts with the carts through a radiofrequency network. The new Barilla warehouse is employed in sorting the merchandise produced in the factory—mainly pasta made from grain and egg—and the merchandise originating in other factories (sauces, cookies, other baked goods).
The group—which sees around 4 billion in sales volume annually—aims to increase its weight in the U.S. market, and is eyeing growing economic realities like Brazil with interest.