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The dazzling saga of the Panzani house: a small family business turned multinational

Curiosity Frédéric - assistant base de données et TIC By Frédéric - assistant base de données et TIC, the 03 April 2020

This week, the Tourist Office gives you a portrait of a local person who has made his mark on local and even national history.
The character we are enjoying today is named Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani, founder in Niort of a small family pasta business that has become multinational!

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani, born in Florence in 1911, son of immigrant Italian merchants, arrived in Niort in 1929.
Naturalized French, he calls himself Jean. His career as an accountant is interrupted by the war. Wounded and discharged in 1940, he joined his family in Niort.
Inspired by a long family tradition, his parents were at the head of a canned bread factory, he elaborated his first recipe of fresh noodles made from flour rue du Maréchal-Leclerc, in the attic of his fineparents; the semolina cannot be found during the Occupation, the raw material delivered by vouchers and the pasta sold to the consumer in exchange for tickets.
"I made them by hand. It took me six hours to produce twenty kilos, then I delivered them by bicycle". Her handmade clothing was dried on the back of chairs.
Then he set up a workshop on Rue Baugier following the enthusiasm of the Niortais for his artisanal pasta. It is supported by two apprentices and one worker.

In 1946, unable to find free ground to expand, he elected home in Parthenay with his wife Marcelle (-2001), in a former bombed shoe factory, avenue Victor Hugo, opposite the station, which he equips with four automatic production lines thanks to a friend, with a pension, son of manufacturer and importer of food machinery. His daughter Françoise inspired him with the name of her first brand: "Francine". Its transport trucks are manufactured by the bodybuilder Heuliez, in Cerizay.
Pasta Panzani was founded in 1950. He is the first to market his production under clear cellophane, a mini-revolution in pasta packaging dominated by cardboard packaging; the consumer can now see the product before buying it. In addition, its package contains 500 grams against 250 grams in cardboard. A logo in the colors of Italy is created. He acquired vast warehouses by buying up Chemin des Loges, the former Pepy pea cannery. 1952 is the year of the launch of canned tomato sauces.
In 1960, the brand was the third in France with a production of 90,000 tonnes and a growth rate of 25-30% per year, although the company was in a controlled price regime. The company has more than 300 employees and becomes No. 1 national, against the 425 competing manufacturers, by merging between 1960 and 64 with Pâtes la Lune, then Régia Scaramelli in order to strengthen its strategy of rapid establishment in the new universe of mass distribution. The brand then integrates the Saint-Just semolina portfolio to diversify.

The project to create a new manufacturing unit was then matured. But after several years of failed negotiations with the elected representatives, he transferred his seat to Lyon in 1967. In Parthenay, only the deposit of the Chemin des Loges was subsequently integrated into the BSN-Gervais-Danone group, before its final closure in 1998. Giovanni lived in Parthenay "The most beautiful moments of (his) life".
In 1973, the company was bought by the Danone group, then, two years later, the slogan "Pasta, pasta, yes but Panzani!" and the famous Don Patillo who has been accompanying advertising campaigns for 25 years.

In the 1990s, it became the market leader in pasta in France thanks to its complete range of dry and fresh pasta, the birth of culinary bases with Tomacouli, the first Spagheto sauce in 1989 and Fast Cooking pasta in 1996.
In 1997, Panzani joined the portfolio of Paribas Affaires Industrielles and became #1 pasta and sauces in France and #2 in Europe.

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani retires in Saint-Didier-au-Mont-d'Or, near Lyon. He is buried in Parthenay, in the family vault, in 2003.

In 2005, the firm joined the Ebro Puleva Group, the world’s #1 rice and #2 pasta companies. Revenues amounted to €515 million in 2010. Panzani is in 2015 the second favorite brand of the French.

Photo credits: Twitter account of Panzani and Pixabay.

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