31 May 2014

"It’s always the right time for Pavesini” - The icon-cookie that united Italy on its motorway net


From Novara (Piedmont - Lake Maggiore)
the icon - cookie that united Italy
on its motorway net

Sixty years have passed since the birth of the icon-cookie, whose name is linked to the Italian economic boom. The Pavesino cookie has witnessed and labeled a period of modernization and enrichment Italy would be very unlikely to handle today. The Piedmontese company producing the brilliant cookie, with its first factories in Novara, near Lake Maggiore, advertised it with the motto: “it’s always the right time for Pavesini”, and with twelve cookies placed on a clock. In 1953 in Milan, by notary deed, a whole economic empire was born. The famous “snack” produced by factories all over Italy and advertised by Carosello on TV was in fact nothing more than the traditional cookie of Novara city, produced by Mario Pavesi since 1937 on a much smaller scale.

Starting from 1950 the Piedmontese company spread its brand on a national scale and built its famous Autogrill service areas, as the new Italian highway system was taking shape. With their bridge-like structure across the carriages, they displayed the unmistakable shape of the cookie along with the Pavesi logo. And this really was the best advertisement ever, since the insisting commercials broadcasted by Carosello on TV could not endure in time like an Autogrill service area. 

Neither could they be as concrete to the public as a true rest stop, under which a fast and promising traffic showed that Italian society was heading towards modernization, wealth and suppression of the historic differences between North and South. This process was under everybody’s eyes, especially those who could afford a breakfast on the Pavesi bridge, on the way to their deserved holidays.

The first Autogrill service area was built on the Milan-Turin highway in 1950. Taccuini Internazionali has already covered the topic of Italian modernization through its highway system and Autogrill areas, whose structure was able to catch the attention of the public from both sides of the highway. On the  bridge you could even enjoy a meal, thus fulfilling many aspirations of the time: taking a break from the long journey, feeling part of a community, citizen of a country whose new “way of life” was making everybody equal and wealthy. Not only could you own a car, but also get all the services and luxuries linked to it, and things would only get better: this was the general feeling in Italy right after the Wars and their atrocities. 

Today Pavesi is owned by Barilla Group, which bought 100% of its block of shares 20 years ago. The founder Mario Pavesi (1909-1990) is still commemorated at the entrance of the factory, with one of its aphorisms: “Arrivare prima degli altri” (“Be the first to arrive”): its an artist-like motto, since it means that primogeniture is what counts most. Being the first to say certain things, promote and support certain values, in order for everyone to benefit from them. 

He was the first one to produce the cookie of Novara industrially, to make it a “snack”, to stand out in Autogrill service areas, to invent  crackers, then stuffed cookies (Ringo) in 1967. A story of success which made it possible to invest 150 millions for the factory in Novara, where 400 people are currently employed and where steam cooking was invented, as a way to eliminate fats by 30%.

Year 1950, Topolino, Fiat 600 and 1100, Giulietta Alfa Romeo, Alfa 1900: different cars for different people, temporarily united in the same Pavesi parking lot for a break. Rich (a little more sober) and poor (no-longer-so-poor) Italian citizens in a moment of relax after the long journey.  Some were leaving the working North to visit their family in the South and vice versa. This Italy knew well where to go, and how to get there. 

A well-determined Italy, ready to do anything in its power to promote itself and reach its destination (not only metaphorically). A hopeful and resolute Italy, which was not yet acquainted with those odd behaviors that would jeopardize its economically virtuous path. 

Enrico Mercatali

Lesa (Novara),  23 September 2013
adapted and translated on May 31, 2014
(translation from italian by Penelope Mirotti)

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