CONTADINA, a brand name known to American families since World War I, began as a result of the German blockade in 1914. Finding themselves short of imported tomato supplies, three enterprising Italian immigrant families seized the opportunity and began producing tomato paste in White Plains, New York.
In 1916, a member of one of these families discovered that the good soil and dependable climate of California made it better than Italy’s Parma Valley and the Naples peninsula for growing tomatoes. Moving to San Jose, California, the family founded the Bell Canto Foods canning company. During the same year, a wholesale grocery business in Chicago became an investor and its distributor, and subsequently its major owner in 1933. Bell Canto Foods established a highly regarded operation which processed approximately 200,000 tons of tomatoes and distributed products across the Northeast.
In 1918, the CONTADINA brand name was established along with the CONTADINA image. Contadina is an Italian word that means “woman of the fields” and it is her image that has come to symbolize the care and quality these women of old gave to the making of their savory dishes, a tradition of excellence carried on in CONTADINA tomato products.
In 1963 the Carnation Company purchased Contadina from its founders, subsequently expanding it beyond its regional base and increasing production from 200,000 to 500,000 tons. Nestlé acquired the business in 1985 in conjunction with its purchase of the Carnation Company. Del Monte Foods acquired the CONTADINA brand of canned tomato products and certain other lines from Nestlé USA in December of 1997. Excluded in the sale were Contadina’s refrigerated pastas and sauces. Subsequently, Contadina Foods, was created to continue the marketing of tomato paste and canned sauce, as well as other products, under the brand name of CONTADINA.