Barilla, the Italian pasta company which came under fire after its chairman said he would “never feature an ad with a gay family”, now plans to do just that.

55-year-old Barilla Chairman Guido Barilla came under fire in September, after he said: “I would never make a spot with a homosexual family. Not out of a lack of respect but because I don’t see it like they do. (My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role.”

Following the outspoken remarks, Labour MEP Michael Cashman called for a boycott of the 130 year old brand, which is readily available in UK stores.

The chairman has since held at least eight meeting with LGBT organisations in the US and Italy, and in a Facebook apology, he insisted that he has always treated everyone equally and fairly.

“Italy is a very insular country, and in cities like Parma it’s even more so,” Luca Virginio told Reuters on behalf of Barilla, saying the firm had been shocked by the backlash over the comments.

“The meetings have helped open our eyes and ears to the evolution taking place in the world outside Parma.”

Despite not elaborating, he said: “We are already working on new advertising concept that will be much more open and much more inclusive.”

The company will introduce a board which includes a US gay activist, in order to improve “diversity and equality in the company’s workforce and culture”, a statement on its website read.

It will also participate in US-based Human Rights Campaign’s equality index.

According to Reuters, the company declined to comment on whether sales had been hurt by boycotts since Mr Barilla’s comments.