In conversation with

Sophie Cobley

Head of Brand at Pasta Evangelists

Introduction

Introduction

italianità – the zest and soul of Italy – is what lies at the heart of Pasta Evangelists. We spoke to Sophie Cobley, Head of Brand at Pasta Evangelists, about how this simple concept of italianità has transformed the brand.

Whether it’s through its old-school print menu, or the fact that the brand practices being environmentally conscious by channelling the resourceful Italian mamma who never lets a scrap of food go to waste, letting that vibrant and authentic Italian culture run through has been fundamental to its success.

Sophie shares how she first encountered the world of brand-building, what she envisions for the future of Pasta Evangelists and describes what an on-brand summer dinner party would be like (spoiler: Nigella’s invited and she’s narrating the menu).

Question and Answer

What sparked your interest in brand?

It was just after I’d graduated and I’d been working in PR for a few months when brand consultancy Sword & Stone came into our agency to host a ‘lunch & learn’. I’m definitely an introvert, so I had inevitably been feeling a bit lost in the PR world of networking and hashtags. But the Sword & Stone perspective on brand really struck a chord. I’ve always been fascinated by inner life, emotions, digging into what makes people tick, and their work felt aligned with that. From there, I understood brand building as a means of creating characters with a unique personality, purpose and community, and I was hooked!

Pasta Evangelists have become huge and are now loved by so many people. What’s been the secret to building brand success?

I think people connect with us most when we’re tapping into the true spirit and rituals of Italy. We call it italianità. It starts with the vibrancy and freshness of our pasta: everyone has that unforgettable memory of a heavenly pasta dish they tried in Italy. If our pasta doesn’t transport you back there, well … we’ve failed you!

But language and storytelling is also such an important part of how we connect, whether that’s via the old-school print menu we include in our doorstep deliveries, or the conversational-style of our masterclasses, which are full of childhood anecdotes from our chefs. The magic of holidaying in Italy (especially as a reserved/awkward Londoner…) is the open hearted, uninhibited warmth of the local people, as well as their passionate (read: competitive) energy when it comes to food! You know how every Italian you meet seems to have their own special version of a recipe, that secret ingredient or unexpected twist born from a family tradition, and they can’t wait to share it with you? Those are the stories we tap into. We want to impart that gleeful, giddy excitement you get when returning home from Italy, eager to share your stories and recommendations with friends, whether it’s a new little-known wine you’ve discovered or a local secret for elevating a ragù.

“Language and storytelling is also such an important part of how we connect, whether that’s via the old-school print menu we include in our doorstep deliveries, or the conversational-style of our masterclasses, which are full of childhood anecdotes from our chefs.”

Are there any other food brands you love for their story or tone of voice?

Pip & Nut. I love the playfulness they bring to the category, transforming a healthy practice into something celebratory and joyful.

The content Pasta Evangelists put out – like the Youtube videos, the new book and the blog – gives space to build stories around your product which build engagement whether you’re a complete beginner or an absolute foodie. What other forms of storytelling would you love Pasta Evangelists to engage in in the future?

Back in the day, I had a short stint in magazine publishing so I would love to engage in longer-form editorial, or better yet, short films (shot on location…) about Italy’s pasta making tradition. We are looking at seasonal pasta retreats to take our masterclass experience to the next level, whether it’s pasta & truffle hunting in Umbria or whisking people away to Puglia for the olive harvest. What better way to elaborate on our love letter to Italy?

Your mission is to be a 100% zero-waste business by 2025 - can you tell us more about your sustainability journey? And what would you advise to other food brands who are trying to make better choices for the planet?

At the moment, we’re really trying to focus on creating a mindset shift within the business, educating our teams to pay attention to more sustainable practices. We try to bring this to life with archetypes connected to the story of Italy, such as the furiously resourceful Italian mamma who would never dream of letting a scrap of food go to waste. We are very much still on our journey and have a long way to go, so I’m wary of giving advice that creates the impression that we think we’ve arrived at our end destination. In terms of what I’ve picked up so far, I’d say a good place to start is getting your carbon footprinting done. Evolving your business in the midst of a climate crisis can quickly feel overwhelming, and a footprint analysis is a good way to identify the areas where you can make the biggest impact.

Pasta Evangelists are throwing a dinner party. Where are you throwing it, who are you inviting, what pasta dish is on the menu?

Given we’re heading into summer, I’m going for sun-baked Sicily. Let’s say a rooftop in Palermo. That way we can wake up the morning after and indulge in freshly-baked brioche with coffee granita for breakfast. As for the pasta dishes? If we’re in Sicily, pistachio pesto has to be on the menu, as well as Salsiccia e Finocchio – a traditional sausage ragù infused with wild fennel. The guestlist is an open invite… as long as Nigella is there to narrate the menu!

Sophie's Storylist

Books

  1. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
  2. Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown
  3. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  4. Sorrow & Bliss by Meg Mason

Magazines

  1. Courier
  2. Conde Nast Traveller
  3. Cherry Bombe

Podcasts

  1. Sentimental Garbage
  2. The Food Programme
  3. Where Is My Mind
  4. I Weigh
  5. Sounds Like A Cult

Newsletters

  1. Kitchen Projects
  2. Hurry Slowly
  3. NYT Cooking
  4. The Word by Sonder & Tell

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