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1. In your answers please make sure that your assessments/arguments are supported by the information/data provided in the case study. General (or common sense) arguments such as “the company should focus on its costs” without any reference to specific information from the case study will get no points.

2. Please write in your own words, copy/paste of sentences from the case study will be penalized.

3. Ten percent of the grading will be based on the organization of your writing and grammar.

4. Your assignment should not take more than two pages, written in 12 font and 1.5 spacing.

  1.  Leaving aside the Academia project for a moment, how would you describe Barilla’s strengths as a company? How profitable is it? What are its prospects in the pasta and bakery business going forward?
  2. What do you think of Zenti’s efforts so far in establishing Academia Barilla? Has he made good progress?

3. What is the potential of Academia in the United States? What more should Zenti be doing? Should they be selling products, services, or lifestyle? Should Barilla (the parent) invest a lot more in this effort?

4. If the Barilla brothers are motivated more by a desire to preserve the authenticity of Italian foods (as opposed to it being a strategic move for the company), should they approach the venture any differently?


Academia Barilla Case Study

Question 1

For decades, Barilla has remained one of the top pasta companies in Italy and across the world. As a family company, it has remained authentic and true to its core and foundational structures since its inception. Despite having been sold once during its early years following harsh market conditions and debt, the company’s founder, Pietro Barilla, was finally able to buy it back. Firstly, its main strength arises from the oneness of the vision that is shared by the family members who have continued to be actively involved in its management. At some point, its leaders have been able to acknowledge their shortcomings in management. Consequently, they have often brought in external managers such as Edwin Artzt, former chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble, to push its overseas expansion strategy (Shelman & Bell, 2007). However, the founding family has retained its active administrative role and participation in the executive, brand equity, and product development committees.


In the meantime, Barilla has become a very profitable venture, particularly in the United States, reaching the fourth position in pasta production in New York in 1994 with sales of around $5 million. In 2005, the company recorded sales of $50 million outside Europe (Shelman & Bell, 2007). However, since then, growth has stagnated, and this calls for the adoption of new strategies and areas of diversification. For example, Barilla’s bakery business has majorly slowed down over the years, and this may be attributed to diminished focus in branding and marketing. Barilla’s vigorous U.S. expansion under Zenti included radio advertisement campaigns and in-house product tests. This way, the company has branded itself as a symbol of quality Italian cuisine across the U.S. market. Additionally, it has diversified its product range with a new line of pasta products. To enhance its prospects for industry dominance, Barilla should continue promoting diversification and maintaining focus on branding and marketing.

Question 2

Zenti took the lead in the Academia Barilla project after his return to Italy after previously working at the Barilla’s global business unit. The experience exposed him to an expansive view of the dining and pasta industry. His main strategy involved creating an authentic and memorable Italian dining experience, and his mission was to preserve Italian food products, create an Italian culinary center, and promote his country’s food culture. Zenti introduced the same concept in the United States to capture its growing market of customers looking for a high-quality Italian dining experience. Thus, he implemented a marketing strategy that initially focused on New York, Boston, and Chicago. With time, Academia products, most of them non-pasta, were distributed in many food chains in the three cities. The projected income from cooking classes, events, and training fees was €1.5 million for 2006 (Shelman & Bell, 2007). So far, Zent has made good progress because he has managed to introduce a business-to-consumer model and to establish a retail distribution system targeting gourmet food stores.

Question 3

Academia has great potential for success in the U.S. market. The global shift towards healthier and authentic nutrition is particularly well developed in the country. Zenti has so far implemented strategies closely related to those of the parent company, Barelli, and they have worked effectively so far. However, he needs to adjust his strategies by adopting a more modern and market-driven approach by branding the Italian dining experience with new fervor, life, and demonstrations. This approach can be implemented by creating a lifestyle product that prioritizes efforts to perfect the distinctive products and services provided. These efforts should be undertaken alongside an aggressive marketing campaign. Finally, the distribution chain should enhance to facilitate access to many customer segments.

Question 4

The Barilla brothers were genuinely determined to establish a business that preserved the authenticity of Italian foods. Undeniably, this has become their main point of marketing and differentiation for its pasta business. Similarly, the Academia project should maintain this focus in the U.S. market since that is what its parent company is best known for. Its priority should be to maintain this authenticity despite pressing the need for the introduction of anew expansion strategy. Thus, approaching the venture in the way they have is the best way forward.


Shelman, M. & Bell, D. (2007). Academia Barilla. Harvard Business School, Case 9-507-001.

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