MUTTI LIVE TOMATO HARVEST – AN EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO MUTTI’S FIELDS AND FACTORY!
• In this page, you can find a recollection of the best moments of our live, and a complete Q&A to dive into the answers of our speakers in a written format.
• Three Mutti speakers discussing quality, sustainability and work ethics are challenged throughout the live with tricky questions from food influencers all over the Nordics, while followers are encourage to submit their own questions about Mutti in the comment box.
• Mutti live tour opens the doors for the first time for everyone to discover what really happens at Mutti during harvest time
29th of August, Mutti organized something never seen before, sending live stream from our fields and plant to give our followers an exclusive sneak peek to what happens at Mutti during tomato harvest.
In the live, followers were able to challenge Mutti speakers in different topics covering Mutti’s approach to sustainability, social responsibility and quality. Our speakers answered challenging questions, such as “how can a tomato producer like Mutti be sustainable?”, “why should a Nordic consumer buy Mutti tomatoes instead of local fresh ones?” and how does Mutti guarantee that suppliers follow your strict requests?”.
The live was planned to take place on our Instagram but due to technical problems we were forced to move it to our @MuttiPomodoroNordics Facebook-account. Nevertheless, we really hope you still had a chance to follow our live on.
TAKE A LOOK AT OUT BEST MOMENTS
In case you missed it, take a look at some of the best moments included in the below 3-minute video reportage!
MUTTI LIVE Q&A – WHAT DID WE ASK?
UGO PERUCH, THE HEAD OF THE AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT
1. How can a tomato producer like Mutti be sustainable?
Quality of our product has to come from the quality of raw-material, which is composed of tasty and healthy fruit. This means that we don’t set standards only for quality, but also need to take environment into consideration.
The process starts from choosing the best soils in terms of geographical areas, climate conditions and characteristics of soils and then adapting the best cultivations methods according to the special needs and requirements of soil and tomato.
Sustainability is strictly related to the way we cultivate our tomatoes and how we manage the crop. At Mutti, we use a method called Integrated Crop Management that involves the integration of good agricultural practices, favoring the use of techniques that guarantee the smallest environmental impact and the best quality tomato. These include for example farming on open fields respecting nature’s life cycle, the limited and rational use of crop protection products and reduced water consumption that we manage with drip irrigation and soil humidity meters. This way we know exactly when the soil needs hydration.
We provide our farmers with the best available technologies and share our know-how to help them reaching the best quality tomato, such as pomodoro.net weather application. It is a tool that gives accurate weather forecast, assesses risks related to plant diseases and nutritional needs.
We have collaborated with the WWF Italy in order to evaluate, monitor and reduce the environmental impact of our activities throughout the whole supply chain – from fields to the factory. Within three years we succeeded to reduce water use by 1000 million liters and CO2 emissions by 31 530 tons.
We have a long-term relationship with farmers, with which we share a protocol of cultivation. Our collaboration is based on a win-win situation: we are very demanding in terms of quality, sustainability and adoption of new technologies but at the same time we pay higher price for the better quality, and help growers in achieving the same goals with us.
2. Is it true that Mutti lets the fields rest for one season and places the tomatoes where they grow the best? How does this work?
Our contracts and protocols require farmers to respect something what is called a crop-rotation. It means that tomatoes can be grown in a same field only once in four years. This is because the soils need to have their time to rest. It is also the most sustainable way to grow tomatoes.
In order to attain the best quality, our farmers need to plan well the harvest. In fact, we ask our famers already in December to plan the timing of the transplanting and the harvest. This is something we need to know beforehand because the harvesting period is short, only from the end of July till the end of September. Therefore, we need to guarantee that during the harvest period our farmers bring us tomatoes every day. Although the harvesting period is short, the whole tomato season lasts for 9 months, starting from February and going till November to celebration of Pomodorino d’Oro.
Pomodorino d’Oro, a golden tomato -price, works as a concrete symbol or icon for our constant attempt to get the best quality tomato. Already for 20 years (this year will be the 21stedition) we have organized every November a big Pomodorino d’Oro -ceremony, which in the beginning was just a gathering of a small group of farmers but nowadays gets together 300 families to celebrate the best producers of the season. During the harvesting time every single tomato track is evaluated using 10 parameters. In the end of the season, according to these parameters, we make calculations who are the 40 best producers. For the farmers not only the financial prize is important but also the pride of appearing on an entire page of a national newspaper as the best or one of the best tomato growers for the most popular tomato brand in Italy.
3. What is different to treating tomato mechanically compared to manually? I know it is good for safety of people, but is there a shadow side? Doesn’t it cut work from people or affect taste/quality of tomato?
Picking tomatoes manually is a though and heavy job. Using mechanical harvest doesn’t mean cutting off work force but assuring the quality of it; those who use harvesting machines need to be educated to use it, which guarantees long-term contracts and removes the need for daily fluctuating work force.
Mechanical harvesting is nowadays able to combine the best quality and efficiency, both in terms of time and costs. Machines treat tomatoes very carefully and what is fascinating – with machines we are able to do the first selection of tomatoes already in the field. Detecting the colors of the tomatoes machines manage to separate and collet only the red tomatoes and leave the green and yellow ones in the field. Because of the speediness of mechanical harvest, we are able to turn freshly picked tomatoes into quality tomato products within 24 hours.
FRANCESCO GODANI, R&D MANAGER
1. What’s so different about these canned tomatoes of Mutti, why would a Nordic consumer buy them when they can buy local fresh ones?
Everything starts from finding the best ingredients; at Mutti only the best tomatoes go inside the products. This applies for every single product, such as ketchup and tomato concentrate.
Best ingredients mean sustainably grown tomatoes, as Ugo has already explained, as well as a close collaboration with farmers. Sustainability started from the fields continues at the plant, where we for example recycle all water that we use, and commit ourselves to zero food waste. All tomatoes not passing our strict quality tests are pureed and given for a symbolic price of 0,000001 €/kg to local cheese producers, who use it in their farms. With our farmers instead, we know all 400 of them by name and pay higher price for the farmers to guarantee that they bring their best tomatoes to Mutti.
All our tomatoes are grown in Italy in open fields, always close to the Mutti plant to secure, what we call the “law of freshness”. After harvesting, tomatoes are quickly transported to the Mutti plant, and after passing our strict quality test – every year we make more than 600 000 quality checks for the fresh tomatoes and final products – immediately turned into tomato products.
With all of these measures, we are able to retain the taste of freshly picked summer tomato and the standards of Mutti quality, level of the product extremely high.
2. What does the quality check mean? What happens when farmers have bad harvest? If the summer is horrible and crop bad, how can you control it?
We have very strict requirements for our tomatoes. When the trucks come to our factory, they go through many quality checks. Not all trucks are accepted – if the quality doesn’t fulfil our standards the truck will be rejected. Checks are related to the taste of the tomato, their rate of sugar and acidity, their look, color, content and texture, their level of carcinoid and we check even the pH-value. In fact, pH-value is extremely important for us, as it works as a safety parameter to guarantee safe final product since we don’t use any additives or preservatives in our products.
What happens if the season is complex in terms of weather, if there’s heavy raining or extremely hot weather that tend to ruin the tomato? The answer is that nothing happens to the final product thanks to our strict quality standards. Instead what happens in case of bad harvest year is that our job in the plant becomes even more intense and we need to sort out every defected tomato. Of course, the price we pay for the best tomato, is usually higher as well.
3. Can you tell us which quality certificates Mutti have?
Mutti has quite many certificates. Since 1999 Mutti has been certified for integrated production (UNI 11233) that Ugo mentioned before. It requires the integration of good agricultural practices and the use of techniques that guarantee the least environmental impact.
In 2005, we got ISO 22005 certification that guarantees that all our tomato production is 100% Italian and the whole supply chain is 100% traceable – from field to table.
We have also good manufactory practices and safety -certification as well as BRF (Global Standard for Food Safety Issues) and IFS (Food Standard, higher level) -certifications.
In addition to our own certificates, our whole supply chain is 100% certified by 3rd parties who monitor the entire supply chain to guarantee control of the product; from sowing and harvesting to processing in the production site up to the delivery of the finished product to the final consumer. All stages of the process are documented and traced.
ARIANNA LEVRIERI, GENERAL SERVICES
1. The media have a critical view on the tomato industry in southern Europe. There have been stories about bad working conditions for the tomato pickers and the criticism against the persons controlling the farms. Do you have a list of criteria that every farm leader have to follow to maintain good work ethics?
“Healthy tomatoes can come only from a sustainable and responsible supply chain. Therefore, healthy and sustainable relationships are just as important as the quality of the raw material.
Therefore, it is important that at the bottom of every relationship, no matter how long or trusting, there is a contract. It is a way to guarantee that everything is regular, that we are leading a quality supply chain. Signing a contract with us, farmers agree to follow our strict regulations. For example, we ask farmers to provide a list of the employees hired, with subsequent verification of the congruity of the number. We ask them to follow the national collective agreements relating to minimum fees, working hours, pension and health care scheme as well as to follow the current regulations regarding health and safety in the work environment.
However, the most important form of self-regulation and contractual requirement to our farmers is the requirement for 100% mechanical harvest. It is something that Mutti has always believed in as a way to secure safe working conditions and reduce the use of illegal work force in tomato plants. Mechanical harvest requires skilled work-force educated to use harvesting machine.
Story of mechanical harvest is quite fascinating. Northern Italy has had mechanical harvesting as a regular mode of harvesting since 70s, while in the south manual handpicking was reality still in 2013. Mutti started operations in the south in 2014, and purchased a plant in the south, Fiordagosto, two years later. Pursuing a 100% mechanical harvest in the south was not easy with farms being small and mechanical harvesters requiring high investments from farmers, as they needed to be adapted in order to be able to pick smaller tomato varieties. In 2018, Mutti, as a first one in Italy, had a 100% mechanical harvesting which we are really proud of.
In southern part of the country, where the risks of exploitation of migrants however are still present, we request all our suppliers to apply to an independent third-party audit on ethical aspects that we support financially. Even though in norther part of the country the harvest with harvesting machines is full spread since a long time and the risk of migrants’ labour exploitation related to hand picking is not reported, we have started asking the farmers the same certifications as in the south.
Only when the whole supply chain is traceable and we know where the tomatoes came from, we have qualified suppliers and qualified working force, we can be sure that we are contributing to gain the best quality tomatoes.
2. How and how often we check on our suppliers to guarantee that the farmers are respecting what was agreed?
First of all, I would like to say that Mutti family has been at the helm of the company for over 120 years and has always been genuinely committed in promoting correct behaviours, respect for employees and honesty throughout the supply chain from farmers and their employees to all other suppliers and consumers.
Farmers are our suppliers but we feel more that they are our partners because we work very tightly with them, we share the same passion for tomatoes and we work together to reach the same goal which is a high quality and taste and healthy tomato.
We have strict quality and ethical standards that we require our farmers to follow. However, we don’t just make requirements but we also invest in the people we work with. One of our most important incentives is based on generation of shared value through a premium pricing policy, that is a premium for higher quality. It means that we pay a higher price for high-quality tomatoes that is between 15% higher in contrast to market average. The higher price we pay enables farmers to invest in innovation, their farms, workers and environment. Since we don’t demand exclusivity from farmers, higher price is also a way to guarantee, that farmers bring their best tomatoes to Mutti, and not to any other producer.
In addition to financial incentives, we invest in the farmers we work with by supporting the adoption of best agricultural practices – during the recent years we have provided our farmers with, for example, weather stations and drip irrigation systems, the last one for example helping the reduce the water footprint.
Lately, we have cooperated with the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Piacenza e Cremona and this cooperation has produced new methods and measurement devices for our farmers, which allow them to make more environmentally friendly farming decisions. For instance, all our farmers have a free access to a remote technical assistance service through the Pomodoro.net which is a decision-making support system.
This is a win-win situation for both us and our farmers – we are deeply engaged and support each other in order to gain our common goal.
3. What have you been doing in this period of time with which everybody is struggling? How do you engage people and stay positive?
It was a really hard period for Mutti and for everyone in general. Mutti activated a campaign called #TOGETHERFORSAFETY with the aim of informing, raising awareness and bringing all of us employees to collaborate to ensure safety, protecting ourselves and others.
Mutti also wanted to reward the commitment of every single worker who helped us to ensure food accessibility during the 3-month block period with a 25% salary increase. This was something Mutti wanted to do to thank for their help. To support all Mutti personnel, an additional Corona virus health insurance was stipulated for each worker in the plant and in the offices.