Federer introduces Barilla to tennis in the USA - UBITENNIS
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Federer introduces Barilla to tennis in the USA

After sponsoring many tennis tournaments around the world, Barilla makes its debut at a US event. Their agenda for 2019 could see them present at Flushing Meadows

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Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

The big tennis “bonanza” that took place in Chicago during the last Laver Cup saw the debut of Italian pasta brand Barilla as a sponsor of an important tennis event in the United Stated. The company, whose American headquarter is situated a mere half an hour North of Chicago in Nortbrook, Illinois, followed the lead of its Global Brand Ambassador Roger Federer and set up a large activation point in the commercial area outside the United Center to introduce American tennis fans to pasta cooked “the Barilla way”.

Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

We caught up with Prita Wadhwani, Barilla’s marketing director for the Americas, to discuss the pasta-maker’s involvement in tennis and their future plans for the US market.

How long did it take to organize the activation point for the Laver Cup? How many people have been involved?

It’s been a wonderful experience for us. We started talking about Laver Cup back in March. We like the concept of sportsmanship, it’s really fun to see the camaraderie the players have together with them being really competitive. So about eight months beginning to end to bring our Barilla experience to tennis fans.

Is your team based in Chicago?

Yes, our American headquarter is just outside of the Chicago area, about 30 miles north in a town called Northbrook and it is responsible for the operations in North and South America.

How did the involvement of Barilla’s Global Ambassador Roger Federer?

We truly admire Federer and what he has achieved in his field of expertise. And we believe that Barilla is to the culinary art world what Federer is to the tennis world. Furthermore, Roger lives his life in a very simple way and our core product is simple as well, flour plus water. That’s where we found a great fit.

Barilla is active in a number of tennis events around the world: we have seen you in Canada at the Rogers Cup, at the Australian Open… were you at the US Open?

No, not this year…

Not this year?… Are there surprises in the works for 2019? I see you are smiling, so I guess we have our answer… Moving on, what is the difference in preparing the activation during events that last 2 weeks and have 600-700,000 people coming through the doors and a much more concentrated event like the Laver Cup, lasting only three days?

There isn’t a big difference really: the hardest part is to build our activation point. Once that is done, we have such an amazing culinary crew with our own on-site kitchen that allows us to prepare our pasta the way we want it. We are completely self-sufficient: we have our own generators, our own water tanks, so we can prepare up to 3,000 servings of pasta per day.

So do you have a full-time “culinary crew” that travels all the time to all the events you participate?

We have chef Lorenzo Boni, who is our executive chef. He has two people working for him who are full-time Barilla employees, and they have identified a number of chefs throughout the USA who have already been vetted and are already trained in how to cook “the Barilla way” and they are brought in for specific events as needed. We are obviously very dedicated to the quality, the taste and the flavor of every single meal we serve.

Barilla at the Laver Cup 2018 in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

Aside from Laver Cup and tennis, how is Barilla perceived in the American market and what is Barilla’s vision in America?

Pietro Barilla, the father of Guido, Luca and Paolo Barilla, the current generation at the helm of the company, had a motto: “Go forward with courage”. That is still instilled in our culture, that drive for innovation is still very present in Barilla’s culture. Our culture also states that “what is good for you should be good for the planet”: we support the sustainability of the ingredients that we put in our food. These are the principles that have inspired out growth: I was lucky enough to have been for the company for over 20 years, and I remember that when I first joined we has a roughly 9% market share in the US, while nowadays we have over one-third of the market. Our success is strictly link to the innovation that we still strive to maintain, from the products that we have to the way we communicated to our consumers. From a product standpoint we always try to offer our consumers what they want: we have recently introduced “legumes pasta”, a pasta made entirely of legumes, where we try not to sacrifice taste for the experience of eating good food. We also try to educate our consumer that it is not necessary to sacrifice taste to eat something that it’s good for you and good for the planet.

What are the challenges that you face in the US with the way that your consumer prepares your products? How do you “educate” the American pasta eater on how to properly cook and eat your products?

Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

It is a journey, it’s not something that happens overnight. When I first joined Barilla we run a “store check” and all consumers knew about pasta were spaghetti and elbows, that is the macaroni for the “mac and cheese”. Now the average consumer is much more educated about the various shapes of pasta, and we like to believe that we had a role in this journey. We have also made some research using the NHANES data (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) which is the dietary gold standard for data in the USA, and we have found out that people eating pasta in the Mediterranean way, with healthy oils, vegetables, lean meats and proteins, have better body metrics than those consuming pasta in a more luxurious fashion. This is very important for us because we try to promote “eating well” rather than “eating a lot”. In our activations we have a pasta recipes-holder to promote the good way of eating pasta in a fun way. A portion of pasta should be two ounces (approximately 60 grams), which needs to be combined with vegetables and lean proteins, and it can create a filling, satiating meal for less than 500 calories, without sacrificing taste.

How is the market for sauces?

Americans are very used to having pasta with red sauces, so we are trying to introduce something different like the “pasta al pesto”. Boredom is one of the big enemies of the frequency of pasta consumption, so we are offering alternatives that may be unknown to the American public and as such need a longer education process. Americans are accustomed to using a jar of sauce for every dish of pasta: pesto isn’t like that, but it allows to add flavor to pasta without adding to many calories. Again, in our philosophy “less is more”, so we try to encourage the use of less sugar.

What other events does Barilla include in its promotional activities in the USA?

Food and wine festivals are very popular in the USA, so we are present at quite a few of those. Our 2019 schedule is still in the works and we hope to be at many more tennis events next year.

Barilla at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago (photo Barilla USA)

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Ons Jabeur Becomes Latest Olympics Withdrawal

Ons Jabeur has played the last three Olympic Games but will not compete in Paris.

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Ons Jabeur has become the latest tennis player to withdraw from the Olympic Games.

The Tunisian would have been an outside contender to claim an Olympic medal for her country but has now withdrawn from the event.

Writing a statement on social media, Jabeur took the decision in order to look after her health as she aims to prepare for Wimbledon and the US Open.

It could be Jabeur’s last chance to compete at the Olympic Games with her career nearing towards an end.

The Wimbledon finalist has competed at the last three Olympic Games but lost in the first round on all three occasions.

Jabeur joins Emma Raducanu, Aryna Sabalenka, Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev as the players that are absent from this summer’s event.

The tennis event at the Olympics will start on the 27th of July and will take place at Roland Garros in Paris.

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Milos Raonic Beats Norrie; Holger Rune Falls to Thompson on Day 1 at Queens

MIlos Raonic hit 47 a record 47 aces on his way to victory as Frances Tiafoe retires against Hijikata, but Dimitrov goes through.

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Canada’s Milos Raonic blasted a record-breaking 47 aces on his way to a nail-biting 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(9) over home hope Cameron Norrie at the cinch Championships in London.

Former Wimbledon runner-up Raonic won 86% behind first serve, and saved both breakpoints he faced, but the 47 service winners was the most on the ATP tour for over 30 years and he squeezed through the two-hour fifteen-minute contest saving two match points in the final set tie-breaker.

“[Serving] is a big part of my game,” he said after the match “If I didn’t have my serve my career would be very different. My serve has always been the most important shot to me. This small record, it’s something special, something meaningful. So overall, a very positive thing and a fun stat to be proud of.”

Meanwhile Norrie remained upbeat despite the loss and firmly believes his form will turnaround soon: “I’m feeling great about my game but not getting results. It’ll come good, I have a lot to be positive about and won’t dwell on it.”

In the upset of the day, Australia’s Jordan Thompson sent seventh seed Holger Rune packing with a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 win putting him into the second round and a possible meeting with Andy Murray. In the first meeting between the two players, it was the 30-year-old who is ranked 43 in the world who played the important points better and got more balls back in court compared to Rune, who slipped on court and complained to the umpire about the surface being too wet.

In other results, qualifier Rinky Hijikata went through when Frances Tiafoe retired at the start of the third set with an injury to his right hip after a fall. The American took the first set 7-5 but the Australian hit back taking the second 6-4.

First on court today was former champion Grigor Dimitrov who cruised through against Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 6-2 in just over an hour, breaking the Frenchman’s serve five times, while the final match of the day was suspended and will be completed tomorrow. Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo was leading Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 2-0 in the decider having split the first two sets.

“I was very happy with the way I started the match. I think I set the bar high and wanted to be steady the whole time,” Dimitrov said after his match. “Serve and return I just tried to focus on, they are the fundamentals of this surface. As the match went on, I felt more solid and more secure, so I am very happy.”

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Carlos Alcaraz Feeling Fresh Ahead Of Queen’s Club

Carlos Alcaraz will look to defend his Queen’s Club title.

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Carlos Alcaraz is raring to go ahead of the grass court season as he prepares for his Wimbledon title defence at Queen’s Club.

The Spaniard is living in a dream right now having won his third Grand Slam title at Roland Garros followed by the news he will team up with Rafael Nadal at the Olympics.

It’s been an incredible last month and Alcaraz reflected on his title run in Paris and spoke about his vacation in Ibiza as he refreshed himself ahead of the grass court season, “I had a few days off. I went to Ibiza with a group of friends. I had fun. It was a great time celebrating Roland Garros,” Alcaraz told the ATP website.

“For me as a player, I need this kind of thing. Every player is different but for me to reach my best tennis I have to separate the professional part from the personal part. I have some days off to forget a little bit that I am a professional player. Being with my friends and family means I can rest a little bit.

“Roland Garros was a fantastic two weeks for me, a dream come true lifting the trophy.”

However tennis is a brutal sport and now Alcaraz’s attention turns to the grass court season where he had amazing memories last year.

The Spaniard won a five set thriller with Novak Djokovic to win his maiden Wimbledon title as he enters this year as defending champion.

Now Alcaraz is ready to attack the grass court season and is only focused on the next month ahead, “I have more matches in my bank on grass and now with the great run I had last year at Queen’s and Wimbledon I know a little bit on how to play and understand the game a little bit on grass,” the Spaniard explained ahead of Queen’s Club.

“I am more mature playing on this surface. The first practice I have done here, my movement wasn’t as good as last year but it is a slow process, so I have to be really focused in every practice and every match. We have to be focused on the tournament that we are playing right now.

“But right now my mind has to be here on the grass to be ready. As soon as I can to play good tennis and to get ready for Wimbledon. Right now my focus is on the grass and then after that, my mind will be on clay again to be at my best for the Olympics.”

Alcaraz will aim for a big run at Queen’s Club and will begin his campaign against Francisco Cerundolo on Tuesday afternoon.

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