Gay rights activists in Italy are urging the public to boycott pasta brand Barilla, after the company's chairman said he refused to feature gay people in advertisements.

During an interview with a local radio station, chairman Guido Barilla said the brand's concept of a "classic" family was "sacred," and that if LGBT people did not like his sentiments, they could "eat another brand."

Members of the LGBT rights group Equality Italia said that Barilla's commentary was an "offensive provocation."

"We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta," head of the group Aurelio Mancuso said, calling on the community to forgo the brand's pastas, sauces and snacks.

In Barilla's Tuesday interview with Italian station Radio 24, the chairman was asked if his company would ever feature a same-sex family in their commercials, the BBC reported.

"We have a slightly different culture," he responded. "For us, the concept of sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company. Ours is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our communication, they will eat our pasta. If not, they can avoid it and eat another brand. You can't please everyone in order to displease no-one.

"I wouldn't do an ad with a homosexual family not because I disrespect gays - they have their right to do whatever they want without disturbing others - but because I don't think like them and I think that the family we try to address is anyway a classic family."

The LGBT community and its supporters responded in outrage. Soon after his radio interview, #barilla and #boicottabarilla (boycott Barilla) were trending topics on Twitter.

Italian member of Parliament Alessandro Zan, who is gay, tweeted, "You can't mess around with consumers, including gay ones."

Barilla responded with a statement of apology, saying that he was trying to express "simply that the woman plays a central role in a family."

"Barilla features families in its commercials because it embraces anyone, and they have always been identified with our brand," he said.