Barilla Facing Lawsuit Over Its "Misleading" Italian Marketing

Barilla labels some products as "Italy's #1 Brand of Pasta"—but where is it actually made?

up-close shot of Barilla pasta box
Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/ Contributor/Getty Images

Leading pasta manufacturer, Barilla, is being sued over its alleged use of "misleading and deceptive marketing practices" regarding the authenticity of its "Italianness."

The lawsuit, which was filed in California, alleges Barilla "falsely and misleadingly labels" some of its products as "'ITALY'S #1 BRAND OF PASTA®," which leads consumers to believe that the product is manufactured in Italy with Italian ingredients. Despite the fact that Barilla is headquartered in Parma, Italy, all of Barilla's pastas, except its Tortellini and Oven Ready Lasagne, are manufactured in Ames, Iowa, Avon, New York, and Canada, according to the company.

The company does note that the U.S. plants utilize the same machines and recipe as the Parma plant.

The two Plaintiffs claim that customers are willing to pay more for "authentic Italian products," especially products made with Italian durum wheat. While Barilla's pastas are made with durum wheat, the company uses wheat "that is not sourced in Italy, in an effort to gain market share and increase sales," according to the suit.

The lawsuit also alleges that Barilla is reinforcing its misleading marketing by including the colors of the Italian flag on the pasta's box. The Plaintiffs claim that they bought two boxes of Barilla while under the impression that it was a product of Italy. However, they claim they would not have bought the Barilla brand or "overpaid a premium" for it if they knew it wasn't from Italy.

"The most recent decision in the ongoing legal matter simply reflects the Court's early conclusion that the lawsuit can proceed. Barilla remains committed to vigorously defend against these unfounded claims, as the wording on the box clearly states: 'Made in the U.S.A. with U.S.A. and imported ingredients.' We're very proud of the brand's Italian heritage, the company's Italian know-how, and the quality of our pasta in the U.S. and globally," Barilla said in a statement.

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