Barilla enters recipe box market with Pasta Evangelists M&A

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Image source: Barilla
Image source: Barilla

Related tags Barilla M&A Pasta

Pasta giant Barilla has taken a majority stake in UK meal kit start-up Pasta Evangelists. The investment also marks the Italian firm’s foray into fresh pasta.

The world’s biggest pasta company Barilla has acquired a majority stake in London-based recipe box company Pasta Evangelists.

The start-up makes and delivers handmade pasta and sauce direct-to-consumers nationwide. Pasta Evangelists also sells into retail via Ocado, Amazon, Marks & Spencer, and has a physical concession in the Harrods Food Hall.

According to the agreement – financial details of which were not disclosed – Pasta Evangelists will continue to operate as a stand-alone entity headed up by founder and CEO Alessandro Savelli. Co-founders Chris Rennoldson and Finn Lagun, who oversee management and operations respectively, will remain ‘significant’ shareholders in the company.

Growth amid COVID-19

Founded in 2016, Pasta Evangelists prides itself on sourcing its ingredients from small farmers and local growers across Savelli’s native Italy.

While in its first year, the start-up sold just 200 portions of pasta, in 2020 this figure increased to more than one million.

The recipe box sector was on an upward trajectory prior to the coronavirus pandemic. According to market research company Hexa, the sector was valued at $2.52bn (€2.3bn) in 2017 and was expected to be worth $9bn by 2025. However, COVID-19 has really shaken up the market.

Pasta Evangelists estimates its sales increased by more than 300% during 2020. Early on in the pandemic, FoodNavigator asked Savelli about this unprecedented surge in demand​.

“We’re having record days, record weeks, a record month, and record quarter,” ​said the CEO back in March. “People are ordering larger baskets and ordering for other people. They are gifting for parents, grandparents, and friends – both gift cards and gift boxes.”

Barilla is clued into this change in consumer behaviour and expects the e-commerce boom to continue.

“The COVID-19 crisis has changed consumer behaviour, the way people work, and the way products are distributed,” ​said Barilla Group CMO Gianluca Di Tondo. “The consumer demand for freshly made, premium food is growing, as well as the boom in e-commerce and subscription-based consumer products.

“We are excited to expand our family with a brand that underlines these major trends.”

Taking Pasta Evangelists ‘to the next level’

Barilla, which acquired the majority stake via its venture capital arm BLU1877, was also attracted by Pasta Evangelists’ geographical positioning.

According to Di Tondo, the UK is ‘at the forefront’ of both e-commerce and subscription business models, and Barilla said it sees ‘high potential’ in foreign markets.

As it stands, foreign business volume represents more than 55% of Barilla’s €3.62bn annual turnover, and in the UK, the company is ‘registering interesting growth rates’. According to a Unione Italiana Food Survey, 71% of Brits eat pasta at least once per week. One out of four increased their consumption during lockdown.

Barilla said it intends to ‘equip itself’ with ‘an innovative approach’ abroad, with the development of new capabilities, new investments and renewed governance.

From Pasta Evangelists’ standpoint, the investment will help advance the start-up’s growth. “With Barilla’s support, we look forward to taking Pasta Evangelists to the next level, including through internationalisation and scaling up our production, while staying true to our core values: freshness, craftsmanship and…Italianness.”

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