McDonald’s and Barilla Pasta Pair Up to Develop ‘Mediterranean Diet’ Menu Items
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. As one Italian newspaper remarked, it is like a meeting of heaven and earth. McDonald’s and the Italian 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 globalized food market, McDonald’s in Italy will offer a pasta salad which it describes as Pennette Pasta with a balanced and skillful mix of tuna, tomatoes, peppers, capers and olives, seasoned with a pinch of oregano.
The US giant in Italy has previously flirted with local produce including parmesan cheese, mozzarella and speck. The partnership is aimed at veering away from global standardized diet menus and “Italianizing” 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 menu “nearer to the Mediterranean diet mode of eating.” Roberto Masi, his counterpart at McDonald’s Italia, said the launch was “a key step on the process of embracing the tastes and flavors of its Italian customers.”
Pietro Barilla opened his pasta and bread shop in the northern city of Parma in 1877. The company remains in the hands of his grandsons. Guido Barilla is the Barilla Group chairman, while the brothers Luca and Paolo Barilla 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.
Though the move is provoking a few sniping among the gastronome critics from a country that is fiercely proud of its “Made in Italy” cuisine, the alliance is being seen by most as nothing more than a commercial move to expand Barilla. As for the Yankee catering giant, it’s a good move designed to give its diet lineup a healthy dash.