McDonald’s pairs with Barilla pasta to develop ‘Mediterranean diet’ menu items

By Lizzy Davies, The Guardian
Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:35 EDT
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Fast-food chain will sell pasta salad from Friday in attempt to Italianise menu after deal with Parma-based Barilla

One is an iconic brand of Italian cuisine that has been in the same family for four generations. The other is one of the biggest fast-food chains in the world. They may, as one Italian newspaper remarked on Thursday, be seen by purists as “the devil and holy water”, but McDonald’s and the Parma-based pasta maker Barilla have now joined forces to bring a touch of the Mediterranean diet to the Big Mac and fries.

In a partnership that reflects the conflicting currents of the globalised food market, branches of McDonald’s in Italy will from Friday offer a €4.90 pasta salad which it describes as pennette pasta with “a balanced and skilful mix of tuna, tomatoes, peppers, capers and olives, seasoned with a pinch of oregano and salt”.

For the US giant, which in Italy has previously flirted with local produce including parmesan cheese, mozzarella and speck, the partnership is aimed at veering away from global standardised menus and “Italianising” itself. For the 136-year-old powerhouse of Emilia Romagna, the world’s leading pasta maker, it is a fresh sign of its desire to expand into new markets.

Claudio Colzani, chief executive of the Barilla Group, said the pasta salad was bringing the McDonald’s repertoire “ever nearer to the Mediterranean model of eating”. Roberto Masi, his counterpart at McDonald’s Italia, said the launch was “a key step on the process of embracing the tastes, flavours and habits of the Italians”.

But the move may provoke sniping among the gastronomes of a country which spawned the Slow Food movement and is fiercely proud of its “Made in Italy” cuisine. Italy’s biggest-selling daily newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, remarked that the “strange alliance” between Barilla and “the icon of Yankee catering” went “well beyond the purely commercial”. “These are two worlds colliding: quality and speed, tradition and modernity,” it wrote.

Pietro Barilla opened his pasta and bread shop in the northern city of Parma in 1877, and the company remains in the hands of his grandsons: Guido Barilla is the Barilla Group chairman, while Luca and Paolo Barilla, his brothers, are the vice-chairmen. In recent years the company has made big inroads in the US market and now has its sights set on Asia as a largely untapped market away from recession-hit Europe.

© Guardian News and Media 2013

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