[PARMA] Italian pasta company Barilla-marketer of the fourth biggest brand sold in European supermarkets is making its first move into the premium pasta sector with a product that has been 10 years in the making. Selezione Oro is t he fruit of a research and development program that Barilla now plans to boost substantially with the injection of money saved from its value pricing policy (see related story). The new pasta, whose name translates as gold choice ,is made from a blend of 25 different types of grain from high-quality durum wheat that has been exposed to large quantities of sunlight, giving it a golden color. Sauces, the company claims, adhere to this type of pasta better t han to others. So far, Selezione Oro is set to launch in Italy only, although Barilla’s acknowledged desire to build a global business suggests it is marked for a roll out into more markets. A Barilla spokesman confirmed: We are always open to entering foreign markets. LIMP PASTA SALES Italy Barilla’s biggest market is the only country in Europe to have seen a dip in pasta sales in the four years to 1995, according to U.K.-based market research company Eur omonitor. A 2% fall saw sales drop to $1.8 billion for 1995, due to price wars and increasing retailer private-label activity as discount stores became a stronger force. Private-label brands now account for 11% of the Italian pasta market. Barilla’s major branded competitor is De Cecco in Italy. Nestlé, which owns rival Italian pasta brand Buitoni, suspects Barilla may be trying to segment the market because it wants to maintain premium pricing for its pasta in the face of this price-led competition. Barilla counters that its move into premium pasta is not a response to competitive pressure, but an attempt to cover the entire pasta market adequately. The premium pasta sector makes up 8.3% of Italy’s total pasta market. The TV launch campaign by Young & Rubicam
Italy moves away from Barilla’s previous use of special effects to instead show a meal as a social occasion. During the 30-second ad, a pasta connoisseu r at a table of friends is tempted to try the Selezione Oro and has to admit that its taste and consistency surpasses that of the other pastas served at the meal. In the background the Italian song,O Sole Mio
, which means O My S un, supports the claim. The product is tagged: The pleasure of 100% pasta.