The Barilla Group

Founded 1877
Parma, Italy

The Barilla Group is not only the largest Italian food processing business but also the world market leader for pasta products. In 1877, Pietro Barilla, then in his twenties, opened a bakery shop in the center of Parma, Italy, where he sold bread and pasta. In 1910 the first factory was built, employing 80 workers. His sons Riccardo and Gualtiero had worked alongside their father since they were 14 years old. In 1919 Gualtiero died suddenly. Riccardo, with the help of his wife Virginia and his two sons Pietro and Gianni, continued to invest.The completion of the plant coincided with one of Italy’s darkest periods. Political and social unrest grew. Gianni Barilla felt that they should sell the business and leave the country.

In 1971, the 94-year-old family business was sold to the US multinational Grace, which wanted to enter the food market in Italy. By 1979, the company has sales of € 130 million and employed 1,600 people. But Grace was not satisfied with its entry into the Italian food market and put the company up for sale.

Pietro Barilla, who had never given up hope of regaining ownership, worked feverishly to raise the necessary capital. Finally, he succeeded in buying back the company from the US multinational.

When their father died, the siblings made it clear that they would jointly continue to develop the family business according to the entrepreneurial spirit of the previous three generations. But they also wanted to introduce new ways of managing the growing business. Just three years after market entry, Barilla was market leader for pasta in the US.