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I buy these tomatoes at my local grocery and always assumed they were San Marzano brand. I was waiting for my soup to simmer and was reading the label when I noticed the initials on the label actually say "San Merican Tomatoes".

Google turns up nothing for that other than the trademark of Simpson Imports, which is also listed on the back of the can, although as the distributor, not an importer.

They are labeled as "Made in the USA", and I was under the impression that San Marzanos were imported from Italy.

Are these knockoffs? Or perhaps some other distribution? The label is so similar to the traditional SM label.

pic2 detail

  • 4
    Are they any good? I've had knock-offs which are better than the products they are trying to mimic, although they are usually junk. How does the flavor and texture of these compare to the real thing? – GdD Apr 25 '16 at 9:23
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It's not a knock-off, per se—but this particular brand has never been imported from Italy.

"San Marzano" is a variety of plum tomato, as well as a protected designation of origin for those tomatoes grown in a specific region and in a traditional way. There is no single "San Marzano" brand or trademark owned by a particular company, and the name is not legally protected in the USA; instead, products originating from the traditional region are indicated by trademarked "DOP" certifications.

Your can is produced by Simpson Imports, the same company that made the San Marzano canned tomatoes with the recognizable design that you're familiar with, which has always been grown in the USA—so in that sense, your can is not a knock-off. However, historically, the brand has probably benefitted from confused customers who thought they were buying tomatoes from the traditional region. The "SMT" design appears to be a newer rebranding; without actually knowing the motivation, it's possible that it may perhaps be to try to establish a trademarkable name, or to incorporate non-San Marzano varieties of tomatoes in their products, or to respect the designation protection and reduce consumer confusion, or perhaps some other reason.

Old label:

San Marzano can San Marzano label

New label:

San Merica can San Merica label (This label is for puree tomatoes instead of whole, so there are additional differences beyond just the rebranding.)

Information about the San Marzano protected designation:

  • The fact that the protected designation and the name of the variety are the same is unfortunate, but I think this answer places an inappropriate degree of value judgement on the idea of people being "tricked" or "confused" by what is, at the end of the day, the accurate name of the variety. I don't think it's appropriate for answers to state political opinions like this. – Random832 Apr 25 '16 at 17:07
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    @Random832 Are you commenting on the other answer? This answer doesn't mention being 'tricked' at all. The reference to customer confusion is entirely reasonable, at least in my opinion; given the italian words on the label etc., they clearly are intending to benefit from customers believing these are imported tomatoes (and the reference above is to a potential reason they might have changed the label, to reduce it). Whether that's a bad thing or not is up to your opinion, of course. – Joe M Apr 25 '16 at 19:45
  • This one says confused, the other one says tricked, it's all the same. It's clear that the reason for the change is anticipating the PDO being imposed on them and preventing them from accurately naming what variety of tomatoes they are selling. The former label said in plain english "grown domestically in the USA" – Random832 Apr 25 '16 at 20:02
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    @Random832 The whole quote is, "the brand has probably benefitted from confused customers who thought they were buying tomatoes from the traditional region", which I would say is not a value judgement, and is furthermore a simple fact in the case of at least one formerly-confused customer (that would be me). – Todd Wilcox Apr 25 '16 at 20:39
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    @Random832 After denying requests to honor their PDOs every time they've asked since sometime in the 19th century; is there any plausible reason to expect an about face at this time? – Dan Neely Apr 25 '16 at 21:29
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In a sense, yes, those are knock-offs. They are grown in the US from San Marzano seeds.

Here is the old label from the same company:

1

From Cooks Illustrated:

2

Until I wrote this answer, I was under the impression that the San Marzano brand in my picture were actual Denominazione d’Origine Protetta San Marzano tomatoes. I don't like feeling tricked. Cook's Illustrated has done a taste test of whole canned tomatoes including San Marzanos imported from Italy. Miur Glen Organic and Hunts both beat even the Denominazione d’Origine Protetta San Marzano tomatoes. The link above has the whole article.

  • There's even a typo on the can of American "San Marzanos": it should read pomodori pelati, not "pomidori*. – jogloran Apr 25 '16 at 6:18
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    @jogloran "pomidoro/pomidori" is an old (but not much) italian plural form. My grandma would sometime use it. – Federico Apr 25 '16 at 7:05

protected by Community Nov 19 '17 at 11:06

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