This week, thethe Tourist Office brings you the fourth article in its series of portraits of local personalities who have left their mark on local and even national history.

The character we are sketching today is called Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani, founder at Niort from a small family pasta business to a multinational!

Pixabay – Oldmermaid

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani, born in Florence in 1911, son of Italian immigrant traders, arrived in Niort in 1929.
Naturalized French, he calls himself Jeans. His career as an accountant was interrupted by the war. Wounded and demobilized in 1940, he joined his family at Niort.
Inspired by a long family tradition, his parents having been at the head of a canned bread factory, he developed his first recipe for fresh noodles made from flour on rue du Maréchal-Leclerc, in his in-laws’ attic; the semolina being unobtainable during the Occupation, the raw material delivered by supply vouchers and the pasta sold to the consumer in exchange for vouchers. 

I made them by hand. It took me six hours to produce twenty kilos, then I delivered them by bicycle

Its artisanal confection was dried on chair backs. Then, he set up a workshop on rue Baugier following thecraze of the Niortais for its artisanal pasta. He is supported by two apprentices and a worker.

Akyurt machine

In 1946, not finding free land to expand, he took up residence 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, at boarding school, son of a builder and importer of food machines. His daughter Françoise inspired the name of his first brand: “Francine”. Its transport trucks are manufactured by the bodybuilder Heuliez, in Cerizay. In 1950, the company was founded Pasta Panzani. 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 purchasing it. In addition, its package contains 500 grams compared to 250 grams in cardboard. A logo in the colors of Italy is created. He acquired large warehouses by purchasing Chemin des Loges, the former Pepy pea cannery. 1952 was the year that canned tomato sauces were launched. 

In 1960, the brand was the third in France with a production of 90.000 tonnes and growth of 25-30% per year although the company is in a controlled price regime. The company has more than 300 employees and becomes national n°1, facing 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 world of mass distribution. The brand then integrated the Saint-Just semolina portfolio to diversify. 

The project to create a new manufacturing unit then matures. But, after several years of aborted negotiations with elected officials, he transferred his seat to Lyon in 1967. Only the Chemin des Loges depot remains in Parthenay, subsequently integrated into the BSN-Gervais-Danone group, before its definitive closure in 1998. Giovanni will have 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 was born “Pasta, pasta, yes but Panzani!” and the famous Don Patillo who accompanied advertising campaigns for 25 years.


In the 90s, it became the market leader in pasta in France thanks to its complete range of dry and fresh pasta, to the birth of culinary bases with Tomacouli, the first Spagheto sauce in 1989 and Rapid Cooking pasta in 1996. 
In 1997, Panzani joined the Paribas Business Industrielles portfolio and became number 1 in pastas and sauces in France and number 2 in Europe. 

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani retires in Saint-Didier-au-Mont-d'Or, near Lyon. He was buried in Parthenay, in the family vault, in 2003. In 2005, the firm joined the Ebro Puleva group, world number 1 in rice and number 2 in pasta. The turnover amounts to 515 million in 2010. Panzani is in 2015 the second favorite brand of the French.

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