This week, theTourist 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 in Niort from a small family pasta business to a multinational!

Pixabay - Oldmermaid

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani, born in Florence in 1911, son of Italian immigrant merchants, arrived in Niort in 1929.
Naturalized French, he called himself Jean. His career as a chartered accountant was interrupted by the war. Wounded and demobilised in 1940, he joined his family in Niort.
Drawing on a long history of family traditionHis parents had run a canned bread factory, and he developed his own first recipe for fresh noodles The semolina was not available during the Occupation, the raw material was provided by supply vouchers and the pasta was sold to the consumer in exchange for tickets. 

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

His handmade clothes were dried on the backs of chairs. Then, he set up a workshop in rue Baugier following theenthusiasm of the Niortais for its artisanal pasta. He is supported by two apprentices and a worker.

Akyurt machine

In 1946, unable to find any free land to expand, he moved to Parthenay with his wife Marcelle (-2001), in an old bombed-out shoe factory on Avenue Victor Hugo, opposite the station, which he equipped with four automatic production lines thanks to a friend he met in boarding school, son of a manufacturer and importer of food machines. His daughter Françoise inspired the name of his first brand: "Francine". His transport trucks were manufactured by the Heuliez body shop in Cerizay. In 1950, the company Pasta Panzani. He was the first to market his product under the name clear cellophaneThis is a mini-revolution in pasta packaging, which at the time was dominated by cardboard packaging; the consumer can now see the product before buying it. In addition, the package contains 500 grams, as opposed to 250 grams in cardboard. A logo in the colours of Italy was created. The company acquires vast warehouses by purchasing the former Pepy pea cannery on chemin des Loges. 1952 is the year of the launch of canned tomato sauces. 

In 1960, the brand was the third largest in France with a production of 90,000 tonnes and a growth of 25-30 % per year although the company is in a price-controlled regime. The company has over 300 employees and becomes national n°1In 1960 and 1964, the company merged with Pâtes la Lune and then with Régia Scaramelli in order to strengthen its strategy of rapid entry into the new world of mass distribution. The brand then integrated the portfolio of the Saint-Just semolina factory to diversify. 

The project to create a new manufacturing unit then matured. However, after several years of failed negotiations with elected officials, it moved its headquarters to Lyon in 1967. Only the Chemin des Loges depot remains in Parthenay, which was later integrated into the BSN-Gervais-Danone group, before its definitive closure in 1998. Giovanni lived in Parthenay "the most beautiful moments of (his) life".
In 1973, the company was acquired by the Danone group, and two years later, the slogan "Pasta, pasta, yes but Panzani!" and the famous Don Patillo, who accompanied the advertising campaigns for 25 years.


In the 1990s, it became the leader in the French pasta market with its complete range of dry and fresh pasta, the birth of the culinary bases with Tomacouli, the first Spagheto sauce in 1989 and the Quick Cooking pasta in 1996. 
In 1997, Panzani joined the Paribas Affaires Industrielles portfolio and became No. 1 in pasta and sauces in France and No. 2 in Europe. 

Giovanni Ubaldo Panzani retired to Saint-Didier-au-Mont-d'Or, near Lyon. He was buried in Parthenay, in the family vault, in 2003. In 2005, the company became part of the Ebro Puleva group, the world's number one rice company and number two pasta company. The turnover amounts to 515 million in 2010. In 2015, Panzani is the second favourite brand of the French.

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