Gay rights groups are boycotting Pasta Barilla after the company’s CEO, Guido Barilla, said Wednesday on an Italian radio show, “I would never do an advert with a homosexual family.” Barilla went on to say that his company’s gay customers could go elsewhere if they didn’t like his stance.
“If they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don’t like it then they will not eat it, and they will eat another brand,” he said.
After Barilla’s comments on Wednesday, Italian LGBT groups were calling for a boycott of the company—which includes 20 brands. His statements came as Italian legislators are attempting to pass legislation against homophobic crimes.
“We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta,” said Aurelio Mancuso, head of the LGBT rights group Equality Italia.
Alessandro Zan, an openly gay member of Italy’s parliament tweeted, “You can’t mess around with consumers, including gay ones.” Zan called on other members of the Italian legislature to join the boycott, which protesters are sharing on Twitter under the hashtag #BoicottaBarilla.
In response to the outcry, Barilla issued an apology of sorts.
“I apologize if my words generated misunderstandings or arguments, or if they offended the sensibilities of some people,” he said. The statement also said Barilla was trying to explain the company’s view that “the woman plays a central role in the family.”
The pasta boss made the anti-LGBT comments while he was answering a question about the stereotypical image of women in Italian advertisements. Barilla said that the company’s advertisements featured “the concept of the sacred family.”
“Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role,” Barilla said.