Barilla to boost diversity after gay protest

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15: Barilla feeds thousands of New Yorkers free pasta dinners and donates 100,000 meals to Food Bank for New York City in Union Square on August 15, 2011, as part of Barilla's Summer of Itay, culminating with Casa Barilla, an Italian food and cultural celebration in Central Park, September 13 - 16, 2011. Barilla will continue to give free pasta dinners to busy New Yorkers at various locations Tuesday August 16 through Thursday, August 18, 2011. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Barilla)
Michael Loccisano

ROME Italy-based pasta maker Barilla is pledging to improve diversity after protests were sparked by an executive's claim the company would never feature ads depicting gay families.

Barilla says it has newly established a board to develop diversity goals and strategies. It said in a statement Monday that former F-1 driver Alex Zanardi, who lost his legs in a car crash, and David Mixner, a gay rights activist, agreed to serve on the board.

In September, gays and others raised calls to boycott Barilla products, which include cookies and bread. Many of the company's ads depict heterosexual couples with children gathered for meals. The calls were particularly strong in the U.S., where sales account for 10 percent of Barilla's revenues. Barilla says new ad campaigns are planned.