A production chain which holds up to scrutiny
Mutti’s sustainable production chain is a result of cooperation with our farmers. It is a production chain which is based on traditions and trust, but also on rigorous self-control and international certification. Together with extremely strict quality checks and the farmers knowhow, we can guarantee a great tomato product.
Behind a great tomato is a great farmer
In case you visit Parma in mid to late summer, you practically can’t avoid seeing farmers inspecting their tomatoes on the fields. When checking out if a tomato is ripe enough, the farmers look at the colour, which should be bright red. Then they inspect the firmness of the peel. However, the one factor which decides when it is the right time for harvest is taste. The thickness of the skin, the juiciness, and the flavour all have to be just right.
Chemically speaking the tomato is ripe when the berry has reached the maximum level of accumulation of reserve substance, among these there are also pigments such as lycopene, which is what gives a tomato its red colour. Therefore the colour is an excellent indicator of maturity. Tomatine is also an indicator of tomato ripeness. A greater amount of lycopene also makes the tomato an extremely healthy food to eat.
When the tomato is ready, the farmer lets us know that the time for harvest has come. Tomatoes need to be picked fast to keep their excellent flavour and consistency. This is why our fields are only an average of 60 miles away from our factory – tomato is an impatient fruit.
We believe that a skilled farmer is the best guarantee of high-quality tomatoes. This is why we need to know our producers personally. We typically form long partnerships with the same families. This ensures trust on both sides, gives us the possibility to share best practices, and enables us to make our production chain transparent from field to table.
Our farmers are proud to be associated with us because we demand so much of them…
Farming tomatoes is not easy. Not even the very best practices can help you if nature and weather are not on your side. But we give our farmers support – both informative and technological – to forecast and react fast to nature’s changes in order to counteract the fickle nature of growing tomatoes.
It is important to point out that tomato growers are not and cannot be occasional producers due to the required mechanisation investments. This is the reason why farmers usually refer to a period of at least 5 years when making calculations and forecasts.
Every single farmer we work with signs a contract and our ethical principles, and commits to operating using methods required by our quality certificates. Adding to this, our farmers know that we don’t buy just any fruit. The tomatoes we accept for production need to go through a rigorous quality control process.
What do we look for when we choose our tomatoes?
Each of the 270 average daily deliveries to three different plants taking place over 75 days of harvesting campaign (so approximately 20,000 deliveries of fresh tomato) is assessed through 10 different parameters that express the quality of both the tomato and the mechanised harvesting:
- Brix degree,
- Presence of soil,
- Green tomatoes,
- Rotten tomatoes,
- Tomatoes with blossom-end rot,
- Tomatoes with cracks,
- Bruised tomatoes,
- Immature tomatoes,
- Tomatoes with scars.
The final price for the tomato is established on the basis of these parameters. Loads that do not conform to one or more parameters are rejected and sent back to the producer who will sell them to other tomato companies with less stringent quality standards.
However, there is no lack of criticism: we are sometimes criticised for being unwilling to adapt to market conditions or for acting like “pharmacists” since we are so uncompromising when it comes to quality. For us, these criticisms actually sound like compliments.
In the end, the demanding work gets rewarded
Mutti’s sign on a field is a mark of professionalism, respect for nature, and responsibility. We also pay our farmers rates which are usually 10–15 % higher than the average market price. The 40 farmers with the year’s best quality, also get monetary bonuses for their effort. The very best of them get awarded the prestigious Pomodorino d´Oro (Golden Tomato) quality award. The award winners get nationwide attention and publicity. It would not be wrong to say, they become rock stars of our industry.
The winners of this yearly award are considered superstars of the Italian tomato industry.
This is how we grow sustainable tomatoes
We did mention growing sustainable tomatoes is more complex than you might think? Here is how we do it, should you like to try doing it yourself in a nature friendly way:
Crop rotation is a system that allows fields to recover the soil’s nutritional content by changing the cultivated crop type or granting it to lay fallow in subsequent years. The purpose of this is to mitigate the soil erosion caused by growing one crop type in the same area. Because of crop rotation, the land gets a chance to recuperate, and it does not require chemical fertilisers to stay farmable. We have used the crop rotation technique on our fields from the very start – over 120 years.
We want to water our crops as naturally as possible. If you happen to drive past our fields on a hot summer day, you will most likely see emitters feeding clean water to the tomatoes. Drip irrigation is a more efficient way to deliver water to plants than conventional sprinklers or surface irrigation. We use mechanical sensors to make sure we waste as little water as possible. This method was developed with the Italian WWF in a five-year project. Because of it, we have managed to reduce our water usage by millions of litres.
Drip irrigation is the most efficient distribution system and allows for very precise fertilisation according to the phenological stages of the crop. The other irrigation systems such as spray booms or center Pivot systems or raingers do not allow fertigation and have a lower irrigation efficiency.
When the tomatoes arrive at our factory, they get washed in large pools. Nearly 80 % of the water in our production is re-used in irrigation. We do this because we don’t want to use any more water resources than we absolutely have to.
Technology and innovation have always played a large part in our success. This was already evident in the new farming practices utilised on the Mutti family farm 120 years ago. Lately, we have cooperated with the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Piacenza e Cremona. This cooperation has produced new methods and measurement devices for our farmers, which allow them to make accurate and environmentally friendly farming decisions. This cooperation is, on the one hand, based on the respect we have for nature; and on the other hand, our way of building trust and sharing best practices with our farmers.
To make the implementation of the specification easier for the farmers, Mutti provides them with access to a remote technical assistance service through the Pomodoro.net website, developed by the company Horta Srl (a spin-off of the Catholic University of Piacenza).
Pomodoro.net is a specific weather forecast data platform granting access to the most advanced knowledge currently available regarding prevention of risks like specific diseases and other harmful factors which could cause crop losses, water requirement through a balance of intakes and outtakes, development stages of the tomato plants, and balance between nutrient supplies. From 2020 a simplified version of the app became accessible from smartphones.
Our production chain has received these certificates among others:
BRC and IFS
These two international certificates make sure that our processes follow the best industry practices.
Behind this series of numbers and letters, you can find a strict, internationally recognised certificate that ensures the transparency of our production chain. Our products are made using 100 % Italian tomatoes, grown on GMO-free zones.
The certificate for integrated production guarantees that our products are made using the principles of sustainable farming. It requires, among other things, that our tomatoes are grown without harmful chemicals, biological agents, or techniques.