BARILLA − Parma, Italy
Barilla is conquering the world with pasta, demonstrating how sustainability can transform into a factor for economic success.
Like lighthouses, major brands cast light on the rough sea of globalization. They help us navigate through the vast expanse of all imaginable purchase decisions. What should I wear today? What car should I drive? And: What should I eat?
Parma, Italy, is home to one of these lighthouses: Barilla – the 140-year-old, fourth-generation family business. Each year, Barilla produces around 1.8 million tons of food at its 28 production sites – 14 in Italy and 14 abroad. From pasta, to sauces, bakery products, and crispbreads, these locations export food products to over 100 countries. As the world market leader with over EUR 3.5 billion in turnover and more than 8,000 employees, Barilla is a fixed star in the pasta universe.
The Barilla lighthouse not only shines bright – it also shines green. “Good for you, good for the planet” is their mantra. “Feeding a steadily growing population with good products without harming the planet is one of the greatest challenges of our time,” says Guido Barilla, Chairman of the Barilla Group.
The first few examples show the emphasis the company from Parma has placed on making a contribution to addressing global challenges:
Raw materials: Barilla’s sustainability program begins with raw materials – durum wheat, tomatoes, eggs. In 2017, over 2,000 Italian farmers produced 240,000 tons of durum wheat. By following the “Barilla Decalogue for the Sustainable Cultivation of Durum Wheat,” the farmers managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their own costs by an average of 10%. Barilla also sets great store in animal welfare: Headquartered in Parma, the group uses 94% cagefree eggs. Barilla has taken palm oil out of its range entirely.
Production: For each ton of pasta Barilla has produced in its facilities since 2010, the company managed to reduce its water consumption by 31% and greenhouse gas emissions by 24%. In addition, Barilla has optimized its sauce and pesto production to reduce water consumption by 15% and CO2 emissions by 49%.
Nutrition: In 2017, Barilla launched 10 new products with a mission to improve the company’s nutritional profile. Since 2010, they have also improved the nutritional profile of 387 products, which now contain less sugar, saturated fats, and salt. Also in 2017, the company launched 100% vegetable sauces containing neither animal ingredients nor lactose to meet the changing demands of consumers.
With planned investments of around EUR 1 billion into its industrial assets, Barilla will be driving its focus on sustainability forward in the years to come. This foundation is the new engine in Barilla’s story of growth.
“With our pasta, we not only share the ways of Italy with the world,” explains Antonio Copercini, Chief Group Supply Chain Officer at Barilla, responsible for global production. “We are also conveying the message that economic success and sustainability can go hand in hand.” Barilla spaghetti coated in pesto not only exude the warm wind of the Mediterranean. They also allow consumers to enjoy their food in good conscience.
The key aspect of Barilla’s sustainability endeavor is establishing regional value chains, from the cultivation of raw materials to processing down to distribution. Barilla has established a strategic production network with factories in Europe, the US, and Russia. Last year, the Italian company purchased an average of 90% of its wheat at the same location where it produces its pasta. Millions of tons of greenhouse gases will be avoided.
In the US, production began in 1998. Starting from scratch, Barilla’s market share is now 34%. Encouraged by this triumph, the company entered the Russian market in 2012. The pasta producer hailing from Parma saw even faster growth in the east, with 12% of all quality pasta coming from Barilla in just a few years. Success in both the US and Russia called for the construction of additional plants as well as expansion of existing facilities.
“There is a long cooperation between our companies, starting with Pietro Barilla and Urs Bühler.”
Partners for 50 years
Sustainability and expansion require a competent solution partner. For over 50 years, Bühler has been one of the most important suppliers to Barilla. Pietro Barilla ordered the first pasta line in Uzwil, while the mill in Parma is full of equipment from Bühler. Today, Bühler serves Barilla along the entire supply chain. With cleaning systems for durum wheat, optical sorters, roller mills, plansifters, and pasta lines, Bühler plays a major role in Barilla’s sustainable success story.
“For us, Bühler’s expertise is the deciding factor,” explains Copercini. This alliance is much more than a purely professional customer relationship. “There is so much that connects us,” Copercini continues. “Tradition as a family company, a company culture with similar values, quality, sustainability – and passion.”
For its current new buildings and expansions, Barilla again and again opted for Bühler as its preferred supplier. Seven of the eleven new production lines in the past six years have come from the Swiss Group: In 2013, two pasta lines for the market launch in Russia; in 2014, two lines in Ames, US, with the start of gluten-free production; in 2017, a large dry goods line for an expansion in the US; and expansion to production in Russia with two additional lines that same year. “Bühler has made a major contribution to our expansion, and we are glad to have such a competent, reliable partner at our side to help realize these ambitious projects,” explains Copercini. This focus on sustainability and healthy eating requires both the manufacturer and technology suppliers to constantly adapt and innovate. Take gluten-free pastas for example: Bühler recognized this trend early on, developing the right extrusion technology based on the Polymatik pasta press. As gluten is not here to act as an adhesive, the Polymatik is responsible for hydrothermal treatment of the raw material. Take energy efficiency as an example: To cut energy costs and make production more sustainable, Bühler has developed dryers that save up to 40% energy. Take digitalization as an example: sensors that continually capture raw material and pasta properties and store data, with the added value of end-to-end production monitoring for quality management and automatic data storage.
Innovation for an even better world
Bühler’s research and development efforts were the clincher for the latest new product: Pasta made not from grain, but pulses – namely, red lentils, and chickpeas. Pulses are not only unbeatable when it comes to sustainability. They require very little water and fertilizer and keep the fields fertile by fixing nitrogen in the soil. And the nutritional value of pulses is second to none: rich in protein, low-fat, chock-full of minerals and vitamins. Barilla launched its new pulses pasta line at the end of 2018, once again setting the benchmark in terms of sustainability.