The subject of food is as diverse and complex as the many dimensions that encompass it. We need food to survive, but once we get beyond the basic needs of nutrition, the subject of food takes on an entirely different character depending on ones values. People associate food with their own personal lifestyles, culture, history, values, heritage, history, identity, and other attributes that make them unique. Gianluigi Zenti
Academia Barilla and ElBulli have a lot of common themes: they have applied and are still applying the cultural and social influences to the food industry, they are oriented and focused on innovation and creativity, they have pioneered and restructured their own markets and business models, they are global, they have strategic alliances with suppliers, retailers and institutions and, finally, they have wisely used all the strategic management concepts. But, above all, I believe they are both pursuing a break-even strategy with the abovementioned businesses in order to capitalize with other correlated businesses, as a tool of permanent promotion. Beside the fact that the two cases both deal with the food world, they portray it in two very different way, focusing: one on the dry pasta segment of the retailing industry in the United States (and involving issues like education and tourism – Academia Barilla) and the other on the haute cuisine segment of the restaurant industry (and involving issues like art and entertainment – ElBulli), but both strategically are pushing on the connotative side of food, on the basis that food is connected with products composed by three main components: physical, emotional and inspirational. Inded, nowadays business growth is primarily driven by intellectual assets: idea, brainpower and creativity. In a knowledge based economy, the human variable is no longer independent, because it is necessary to evaluate the “intelligence” of a company as innovation power. This conception underlines the fact that the future is more important than the past.
The first case shows us the process of introduction by the world's largest pasta company (Barilla) of a new high-quality, high-priced product line that features a range of authentic Italian food products sourced from artisan producers. Management believed that the new line would have high appeal on consumers seeking healthier foods, and will help extend Barilla's brand identification beyond pasta. However, the new line was a bold departure from Barilla's core competencies of high-volume production and sales of fast moving, low-priced goods. So far it had also a strong correlation with the company historic principles of quality and authenticity, as well as the commitment to provide the world with good food. But Academia had also to fit into Barilla’s long term strategy and need for growth. Indeed, the broader issue on Academia Barilla is related to its present role into the Barilla Group’s organization: a niche line, with limited sales but useful as a way to enhance Barilla’s authentic Italian image and as a testing ground to identify products that could move into mainstream distribution; or a real competitive stand-alone brand. In this scenario, given the emotional and cultural dimension connected with food, the evolution of consumer knowledge is becoming a really significant driver in the market. Consumers are expecting that manufacturers just not produce manufactured products but also teach them about those products and how to use them. This is really the big innovation, not just being a manufacturer, but also being a big communicator of knowledge. Because of that, Academia Barilla and Barilla Group needed to promote Italian food in America by communicating Italian lifestyle and working on below the line marketing activities aimed to emphasize gastronomy at Academia Barilla. Pursuing this strategy, Academia Barilla has made an incredible impact in the American food market that reaches far...