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Tomato Dynasty Mom: Small invention turned the company into a million-dollar corporation

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Tomato Dynasty Mom: Small invention turned the company into a million-dollar corporation

The traditional company Mutti has been around for 120 years Getty Images / ItalianFoodProduction / MIGUEL MEDINA / Rosmarie Wirz /

The Italian family business Mutti has been producing canned tomatoes for 120 years. It is now run by Francesco Mutti in the fourth generation – and is the European market leader in this segment.

Despite a huge increase in energy and raw material costs, the company recorded total sales of 563 million euros in 2022. This is an increase of 16 percent compared to the previous year. However, when she won, Mom made a loss.

Since its founding in 1899, Mutti has produced a number of innovations. Everyone should have one of these in their pantry: tomato paste from a tube.

Pieced, strained or triple concentrated – the success of the Mutti brand is based on a single fruit. The Italian family business has been selling tomato products for over 120 years. You can also find them in most supermarkets in Germany. There’s just one thing that Mom’s tomatoes are definitely not: fresh.

The food producer has relied on preservation in the form of cans, jars and tubes since its founding. Due to their intensity of taste, canned tomatoes are also extremely popular in top cuisine. The company is now represented in around 100 countries and has triple-digit million sales. But crises such as inflation and the severe droughts in northern Italy also leave their mark on Mom.

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Canned tomatoes are underestimated in culinary terms

Although tomatoes are considered fruit from a botanical perspective, canned tomatoes are not found next to canned fruit in the supermarket. From a culinary point of view, it is a vegetable. To be more precise: the most popular vegetable in Germany. According to the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food Tomatoes accounted for a total of 27 percent of total German vegetable consumption in the 2021/2022 marketing year. This also includes processed products such as tomato paste or canned tomatoes.

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These two products can be found in numerous German pantries. Even top chefs regularly use it. This is what the star chef Lisa Angermann explained in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) recently said, “Canned tomatoes are the best thing you can have in your pantry because they are simply incredibly diverse.” Unlike fresh tomatoes, they can be processed without long transport routes and therefore often have a higher degree of ripeness. This is a big taste advantage, especially in the German winter.

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In Italy, the land of tomatoes, people also like to cook with canned food. Preferably with mom’s canned tomatoes. The Italian company has long been the market leader in this segment. In 2022, the family business recorded, according to one Press release from May 2023 a total turnover of 563 million euros. This corresponds to an increase of 16 percent compared to the previous year.

At the same time, the export share rose to 51 percent. So now more than half of sales are generated abroad. With a market share of 15 percent, Mutti is now the leading manufacturer of tomato products in Europe. In Germany, however, it is only enough for second place. Oro di Parma, a brand from the food manufacturer Hengstenberg, is at the top here.

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Inflation and water scarcity: tomato sauce in the crisis?

Like many other countries, Italy has had to struggle with high inflation since the outbreak of the Ukraine war. In 2022, the inflation rate – just like in Germany – was 8.7 percent. This comes from data from Federal Statistical Office out. The consequences were also noticeable for mom: gas costs increased by 217 percent. But spending on electricity and raw materials also recorded an enormous increase.

According to Mutti’s press release, this led to a decline in EBITDA, i.e. earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. This amounted to 44.7 million euros in 2022. This means a decrease of seven percent compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, prices for end consumers have only been increased slightly. A can of Polpa Finest Tomato Pulp, Mutti’s classic, currently costs around 1.70 euros in German supermarkets.

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In the press release, CEO Francesco Mutti also points out the water shortage, which is also increasingly affecting northern Italy. According to him, water policy for the next few years needs to be urgently reconsidered. Mutti originally comes from the northern region of Parma, where the first production facility was established after it was founded in 1899. The products are now also manufactured in southern Italy and even France.

Mom – a tomato dynasty

Francesco Mutti is the fourth generation to run the company. Founded by the brothers Marcellino and Callisto, Mutti quickly found its first unique selling point. Using the new sous vide process, they produced canned tomato extract, it says Mom’s website. It later became tomato paste. This type of processing made it possible to preserve the tomatoes twice and then even three times more concentrated. The lion logo was developed in 1911. In view of the widespread illiteracy at the time, it was intended to strengthen the recognition value of the brand – to this day it adorns every Mutti product.

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The family can look back on over 120 years of company history, during which they have repeatedly set new standards in tomato processing. At the beginning of the 20th century, they revolutionized the production of tomato extract, which previously had to be boiled for hours and dried in the sun. Only Italian tomatoes are used for production – and only ripe ones. Yellow and green pieces are “rejected,” as it says on the Polpa can.

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In the 1960s, Mutti brought the world‘s first aluminum tube onto the market. The significantly smaller opening meant the concentrate lasted longer. Since then, numerous food manufacturers have adopted them. In recent years, Mutti has repeatedly brought new tomato-related products onto the market. It wasn’t until 2020 that the range of sauces was significantly expanded: Mutti now also sells tomato pesto.

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