Your Bolognese Should Be Ethical: Why Sourcing Matters To Napolina
Italians are hugely passionate about cooking (just take a look at the comments section of pretty much any pasta recipe online for proof) and when it comes to showcasing the country's cuisine, so is Napolina. Napolina’s founder Marino Iandiorio was so inspired by the quality of the produce he found in Naples, the moment he tried a “real” tomato for the first time forever ruined any pretenders, that he decided to form the brand then and there – the name of which literally translates to mean ‘Little Naples'.
The Napolina brand might have been established in Italy (duh) but it was launched in the UK around 1965. More than 50 years on, Napolina is now the UK’s number one Italian cooking brand and features an impressive range of over 140 products. Many of which we use readily here at MOB Kitchen. Why? Because they’re quality products that are responsibly sourced.
Given Italy’s proximity to North Africa, there have historically been issues within the Italian food industry due to the use of migrant labour. Many workers have been forced to work in difficult conditions with little pay and long hours in the sun; an exploitative supply chain that has involved various gangmasters who regularly take advantage of the cheap labour in order to make greater profits for themselves. Not only that, but a number of scandals have recently hit the Italian tomatoes industry due to the use of non-European sources (such as Chinese and North African tomatoes) in products that claim to be “100% Italian”. I think we can all agree that’s shady behaviour.
Those are just a few of the reasons why Napolina has adopted such a robust approach over the last 10 years in developing a clear ethical strategy that addresses those issues. Napolina has made strides to ensure that ethical working practices are adhered to and monitored and that all of these elements are fact-checked by a third party to ensure impartiality. Basically: they give a damn. And that whole giving a damn ethos really comes through in the quality of the products.
Napolina tomatoes are grown in the south of Italy, an area that enjoys around 2,500 hours of sunshine every year. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, it’s that location and those prime conditions that allow Napolina’s farmers to pick the best quality fruit from under the Italian sun. Those same sun-fattened tomatoes are then canned in the Puglian province of Foggia – the largest tomato growing region of Italy. Foggia itself is known as ‘Il Tavoliere’ (The Table) due to being a naturally elevated plain, located just above sea level, where the breeze naturally regulates the heat of the sun. The sourcing of Napolina tomatoes from local farmers not only ensures their freshness when they get to that processing site in Foggia but also enables Napolina to invest in the local community and the people responsible for tending those plump tomatoes.
Napolina has taken various steps to enhance transparency as well as social sustainability across its entire tomato supply chain. This includes an agreement with Coldiretti, Italy’s leading agricultural union, to provide financial stability for growers through guaranteed three-year supply contracts at prices that reflect the true costs of tomato growing to enable the long-term sustainability of the industry.
The agreement includes a commitment by Napolina growers to participate in using blockchain digital traceability technology to monitor and protect workers’ safety rights throughout the supply chain. In 2020, Napolina also launched a new blockchain vision and transparency initiative in partnership with “Provenance” to enable consumers to view the quality and sustainability credentials of their products.
Most shoppers aren’t prepared to put up with brands or products that don’t reflect their values and that’s why making sure you’re as open as possible about where your ingredients come from is more important than ever. Moreover, Napolina believes that it has a moral obligation to consumers as well as to workers in its supply chain. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. And the way that Napolina has gone about making their traceability clear has been nothing short of innovative.
As an initial first step of Napolina’s transparency initiative, QR codes were introduced on-pack to tell the sourcing story of Napolina brand canned tomatoes. Through the on-pack QR codes, shoppers like yourselves can now experience a mobile-friendly experience that is supported by data from Napolina’s supply chain. All it takes is a simple scan and you clearly see how these products are made, where they come from, and who was involved – from farming co-operatives to supermarket shelves – at the point of sale.
Who’d have thought a QR code could help you better understand the environmental and social impact behind a product? Not me a few years ago, I’ll tell you that. Scan a can of Napolina canned tomatoes today and make your next amatriciana is a more ethical one, MOB.