The historic Italian company with a family soul invests in innovation to protect and transmit to the world a precious tradition of quality.
Mutti: tomato only. This is the claim that accompanies the historic Italian brand based in Parma, which for over one hundred years, through four generations, established itself as a leading company in the agri-food sector for tomato processing. Walking with passion and commitment along a guiding line marked by innovation and research, Mutti managed over the years to turn its products in the most significant expression and voice of a territory and a tradition that has reached the highest peaks in taste and quality. The legend of this brand has also an aroma of future and new challenges to be faced, such as expansion abroad: we talked about it with Francesco Mutti, CEO of the company.
A lot has changed since 1899, the year when the Mutti family started production: the context, the technology, the society. What survived during this time that enabled the company to preserve its identity?
Yes, a lot has changed in the 120 years since my family started working with tomatoes. However, there are several things that have remained constant and are key to the Mutti brand. Since the very beginning, my family and I have channeled our efforts into perfecting tomatoes, and only tomatoes, in order to provide truly excellent products. This focus has instilled a tremendous amount of expertise, and passion, for what we feel is one of nature’s greatest gifts.
This passion breeds a commitment for continuous improvement. Even with all of the awards and acknowledgement we’ve received, we are never satisfied. We continue to invest in innovation and modern technologies to enable improvement across all stages of our process. From innovative packaging like the first tomato paste to be sold in a tube (1951), to the development of a patented low heat processing method that created Polpa in 1971, we have, and will continue to innovate.
We continue our emphasis on creating strong working partnerships with the farm families who enable us to secure the finest quality raw material. When I took over in 1994, we elevated this aspect of our process. The Mutti brand must stand for the highest standard of quality, and I believed that this required us to further our efforts in supporting our farm partners. We decided to pay a premium for the highest quality raw material and support these farmers with agricultural best practices. We started providing guidance including seed selection, water utilization, pesticide minimization, crop rotation, and harvest management, leveraging our unique dedicated support platform at pomodorino.net. In 2000, we began the Pomodorino d’Oro (Golden Tomato) Awards, and later the Targhe d’Oro (Golden Plate) Awards in Southern Italy, to recognize the best of the best farmers in regards to quality. Through these initiatives, we are able to secure the highest quality raw material from each harvest.
We feel strongly about our impact on our food systems and their sustainability. We focus on sustainability with water and energy reduction projects in partnership with WWF Italia, biodiversity management, and care for the farm workers with strict requirements on treatment of farm labor. In 2019 we will be completely mechanically harvested to better the working conditions the farm workers who harvest our tomatoes.
These core elements of focus, continuous improvement, working partnerships with farmers, and sustainability, have always been part of our values and practices.
Mutti’s story in Italy, but above all abroad, is based on the origin of its products and the importance of localism. What is guaranteed by this kind of narrative?
When it comes to food, the sense of place is more relevant than ever. Mutti tomatoes are deeply rooted in the land where they grow, both literally and figuratively. We have tremendous respect for the land – Parma, our home of course, our farmers, and the abundant riches of the tomato fields, the sun, the soil, the rain, that make great tomatoes. We are proud to say that our tomatoes are 100% Italian grown and packed.
Fortunately, across the world many people have come to understand and appreciate the foods of Parma, and the cuisine and culture of Italy. They appreciate our respect for simplicity and quality, and for the traditions that go into the production of some of our most important exports – Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigianino Reggiano, and of course, pomodori.
When we tell consumers around the world that we are the leading brand of Italian tomatoes, it conveys a passion for quality and taste.
Constant attention to reputation and the pursuit of quality is essential to create a “value-added chain”. How does Mutti handle these two issues?
We don’t see these as two distinct issues. For us quality drives our reputation as Italy’s #1 tomato brand, which is why our first and foremost priority is to always focus on providing the world with Italy’s best tomatoes. With our family name on the company and every product we sell, reputation is always at the forefront of all our interactions with farmers, our employees, and our external stakeholders.
The tomato is undoubtedly a symbol of the made in Italy cuisine and mostly associated with pasta and pizza. What does Mutti represent in Italian gastronomy?
The tomato is definitely one of the symbols of our Italian culinary tradition. From the simplest “Pasta al Pomodoro”, a synonym of Italian cuisine, to more elaborate recipes, tomatoes are the common denominator of Italian gastronomy.
Over the years, Mutti has developed ongoing relationships with many renowned chefs to further spread the culture of tomato. The idea is to express the different characteristics, as well as the distinctive culinary use, of the “3 reds” in our tradition: Polpa (Finely Chopped), Passata (Puree) and Concentrato (Tomato Paste). More recently, partnerships with top food bloggers and engagement during food festivals continue to share the excellent quality of Mutti products with our consumers and customers.
How does the United States identify Mutti? What is their awareness of your company?
Our work in the United States is in its very early stages – our US operation was established in January 2018 – but we are finding a tremendous response from consumers.
Prior to opening the US operation, we talked to consumers and learned that their expectations for canned tomatoes were actually quite low. They purchased based on price or what they’ve used before. It’s a very cluttered and confusing category here; many brands that might sound or look Italian are actually not. And, US consumers rarely, if ever, try a tomato product from the can, bottle, or jar.
Mutti is set on revolutionizing the way Americans view tomatoes. Our messaging around fresh taste, and the invitation to taste our tomatoes straight from the can is getting noticed. Consumers replay these messages back to us, and once they try Mutti tomatoes they report the highest levels of loyalty in the category.
Our work is simply to introduce as many consumers to Mutti tomatoes as possible, and our team is making progress every day in regard to getting this message out and growing our retail and foodservice presence.
The strength of having a past undoubtedly enables facing the future better, but the responsibility is greater. What are the values and ventures that Mutti will focus on, particularly abroad?
The values we are focused on in Parma remain consistent: secure the best raw materials, and do it sustainably with respect to our farmers and the land.
In the US, our focus is also quite simple: to introduce American consumers to the noticeably different and better taste of our tomatoes. We must also communicate aspects that we may take for granted – letting them know that our tomatoes are truly 100% Italian, Non-GMO Project Verified, packed without any additives or preservatives. This communication takes many forms of course, but the most critical piece is simply allowing consumers to taste the product, both straight out of the can and in recipes. Once they do that, our work is done.
Read also: Mutti introduces new sauces for pizza