ROME - Pasta maker Barilla fought boycott calls on Friday after its CEO said he would never feature gay couples in commercials, prompting renewed calls for 1950s-style Italian television ads to get with the times.
The leading pasta company in Italy and a major exporter worldwide with a turnover last year of 3.9 billion euros (US$5.3 billion), Barilla has taken to social media to say sorry following a major backlash.
"While we can't undo recent remarks, we can apologise. To all our friends, family, employees and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry," the family-owned company said on its US Facebook page.
One commenter responded: "I'm Italian, I'm gay, I'm married legally to a man, I have three adopted children. I had Barilla pasta for dinner last night.
Today, tomorrow and forever more I will choose another brand of pasta. Good bye Barilla! You lose!"
The scandal began with a radio interview by chief executive Guido Barilla on Wednesday in which he said that their target customers were "a classic family".
"We have a slightly different culture. For us the concept of a canonical family remains one of the fundamental values of the business," he said.
Asked if he would ever consider including a gay couple in one of his television commercials, he said: "We would not do it because ours is a traditional family".
"If (gay people) like our pasta and our communication, they can eat it. If they do not like it, if they do not like what we say, they can eat a different one."