"The tomato season was disappointing in terms of yield in the summer due to the extreme drought. We can hardly deliver the planned quantities to our customers. The climate has been a worrying factor for years, along with the exorbitant cost increases in every stage of the production chain. And although sales prices have also risen, even for high-quality processed products, it is not possible to exceed a certain threshold so as not to put further pressure on families' purchasing power," said Fiorenza Grillo, who owns the Sicilian growing company Azienda Agricola del Grillo with her father Carlo and her brother Giuseppe.
The company has an acreage of 92 hectares in the province of Trapani, about 7 of which are dedicated to open-field cultivation of tomatoes grown without irrigation in a region where rain is scarce. For three generations, the company has also been organically growing olives and wine grapes of native and foreign varieties. In 2016, the Grillo family decided to also process fruits and vegetables to add more value to their products.
The first product the company started with, was tomato sauce (known as passata), available in a 680 g format, followed by peeled tomatoes, peeled by hand one at a time, and tomato sauce with basil. All three processed products are organic.
"Putting whole tomatoes into glass jars while preserving the flavor is a skill that involves high production costs. The difference from classic industrially processed products is significant. No preservatives are added to the processed products. The company produces about 30,000 bottles of tomato sauce," explained Fiorenza Grillo.
The passata is obtained by the vacuum concentration of hand-picked tomatoes. The tomatoes are heated through a very carefully devised process and at low temperatures to retain their flavor.
"At the Sana fair we presented some novelties such as wine from indigenous grape varieties and extra virgin olive oil, also from two indigenous varieties: Nocellara del Belice and Cerasuola. The pressing of the olives is done mechanically, eliminating interruptions during the processing to ensure an oil of very high quality. Cold pressing guarantees the preservation of minerals, vitamins and substances with antioxidant properties," concluded Fiorenza Grillo.
Agricola del Grillo is a company that is constantly evolving. The next project is to strengthen the marketing of its processed products abroad and also to take advantage of flexible marketing channels so that consumers can easily find the products.
The company sells 50% of its products in Italy through specialized stores. The rest goes abroad, especially to Germany, France and the United States. It collaborates with the catering industry, buying groups and gourmet stores.