By: Mark Tosi
As President and Co-Owner of Pastene, which I lead with my brother Chris, tomatoes are the center-piece of our brand history, our current success, and our future plan for growth. We represent the sixth generation to run the family-owned company, the country’s leading importer of authentic foods and ingredients for more than 147 years, and the premier specialty products brand in the New England region of the U.S. and Eastern Canada.
Pietro Pastene, who came to the U.S. from Geneo, Italy, founded the company in 1874. The Pastene story began in Boston’s North End with a produce-laden pushcart and the country’s first-ever imported olive oil. Today the company’s iconic yellow and red labels grace gourmet products from our highly popular Kitchen Ready Tomatoes to tonno in olive oil, beans to breadcrumbs, pasta to peppers, all the way to hard-to-find varieties of olives and artichokes.
Pastene products are sold across the U.S. in select retailers, mass merchants, by national e-tailers like Amazon and Walmart, and direct to consumer online at www.pastene.com. We are known for nurturing affiliate and partner relationships to support grocers in tough times like today’s COVID-19 pandemic. When a clogged supply chain hindered other food companies, we kept shelves stocked to meet the needs of retailers and their customers.
Throughout the pandemic, the foods on which we’ve built much of our success have become the new must-have staples in every home’s pantry. In addition to exponential in-store sales growth, three of the top five ingredients seeing the most online sales increases in the industry are pasta (699% growth), crushed canned tomatoes (316% growth) and tomato sauce (269% growth).
Nutrition-rich and versatile, tomatoes saved the day for housebound families challenged to create nourishing family meals, which they used in such satisfying dishes as chili and pasta sauces. Consumers are expected to continue to cook more at home, and grocers have a growing opportunity to capitalize on this ongoing trend by stocking up on shelf-stable products made with high-quality ingredients, particularly tomatoes, including those purveyed by Pastene. This is especially important with a continued flux on the supple side of raw materials suitable for processing, recently evidenced by Italian growers.
We remain the market leader because of our products key differentiators: never from concentrate, GMO free, minimal processing, no additives or dyes, and rigorous quality standards. For example, Pastene’s process for tomatoes is to steam-peel them, in contrast to companioes who use chemicals to peel their tomatoes. We also only harvest once a year at the peak of ripeness in Italy and California where the soil is the richest and produce the sweetest, best quality tomatoes. All the tomatoes we use are harvested and canned in under five hours so by the time they hit kitchen tables they are still farm fresh.
While the pandemic will eventually pass, consumer demand for high-quality, shelf-stable tomato ingredients will endure. Grocers can find inspiration in the words of the poet Lewis Grizzard, “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”