May 12 - Barilla, the world's largest pasta producer and Italy's largest food company, is expanding into Asia with hopes of persuading Chinese to swap rice for spaghetti. Kirsty Basset reports.
From racing cars to heading up the world's largest pasta producer, Barilla - Paolo Barilla is passionate - about good food. Millions of people buy the products that bear his name every day. That's a nutritional responsibility he takes very seriously, along with food packaging - which he believes could be improved across the industry. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BARILLA VICE PRESIDENT PAOLO BARILLA SAYING: "Sometimes, products are not explained the way they should be and we are misled in the consumption, and then we don't find that our life, it's getting better. And that's a big responsibility for the industry." Barilla already has a strong presence in Europe and the United States. But like many companies, they're keen to expand in Asia. They have a team on the ground collecting data and trying to understand food traditions. But there are many challenges ahead and compared to more established markets, Barilla says growth in Asia will take time. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BARILLA VICE PRESIDENT, PAOLO BARILLA SAYING: "When we went to the U.S. we understood it was a big market, and the pasta was there and the consumption was there and Italian food has a strong meaning for the American people. We don't have that evidence today about China or if we have it, we have to understand where - because Asia is a big region." Strong results in 2010 caused Barilla to look for opportunities outside its traditional markets. They had also hoped to expand into North Africa - but plans were put on hold due to recent political unrest. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BARILLA VICE PRESIDENT, PAOLO BARILLA SAYING: "Just the week before the turmoil started in North Africa, we had planned a trip, but we had to cancel." Barilla has been in family hands for over 130 years - and if Paolo, a fourth generation company man has his way, they won't be listing at any stage in the future. Kirsty Basset, Reuters.