You may not think of a popular brand such as Red Gold being local, but if you live in Indiana, Ohio or Michigan, there’s a good chance that Red Gold tomatoes are grown by a farmer near you. And if you live elsewhere, you should be happy to learn that this company remains family-owned, as it has since its inception in 1942.
Red Gold Inc. is a fourth-generation, family-owned business that is dedicated to its employee- and leadership team-created mission statement “to produce the freshest, best-tasting tomato products in the world.”
To that end, “Red Gold tomato products are grown on Midwest family farms where conditions are ideal for growing red, ripe tomatoes,” says Steve Smith, the company’s director of agriculture. “The company is committed to producing its products at the peak of freshness.”
Red Gold began as Orestes Canning when Grover Hutcherson and his daughter, Fran, rebuilt the Midwest cannery to provide fresh-tasting, canned food products for the World War II effort. The company’s name was changed to Red Gold in 1970. Its corporate offices and three processing plants are all located in Indiana.
“The core values of Red Gold have always been quality, customer service and competitive pricing,” says Selita Reichart, vice president of quality of work life. “Our family is involved in all aspects of the company, and the 1,300 employees work with family members every day. We feel that our employees are our most valuable resource, and that contributes to a culture of participative teamwork.”
The family moniker continues with the company’s growers, who are all part of family farming operations. Smith says Red Gold grows a Roma tomato.
“The tomato has been carefully bred and selected for our geographic region and environment. The planting consists of several varieties with different maturity times. Our growers all own their own planting and harvesting equipment, [which is] a sizable investment in this industry.”
Tons of Tomatoes
Scott Smith (no relation to Steve), a grower for Red Gold from Windfall, Indiana, has contracted with the company since the early 1980s and currently grows 389 acres of tomatoes.
“Tomatoes are a specialty crop and are all about timing and the details to make it happen,” he says. “As a team, Red Gold and I work very closely together throughout the growing season. The company provides all the growers [with] information to organize a timely planting and harvest schedule. This is very important so the tomatoes can be harvested and processed at optimal times. Growing tomatoes on a mass scale requires good management skills. Paying close attention to the details is key to success.”
Scott Smith says the tomato plants don’t contain any pathogens, and are grown in such a safe and natural environment that his family eats what it grows and is proud of that.
His operation alone produces more than 13,000 tons of tomatoes, resulting in more than 20 million cans of tomato products.
Preserving the Freshness
Tina Anderson, Red Gold’s vice president of quality assurance and research and development, says the company strives to make its products as fresh as a tomato off the vine.
“The preservation of food via the canning process allows consumers to enjoy some of the safest foods on the planet,” she says. “The Red Gold process produces whole peeled, diced tomatoes and fresh-squeezed tomato juice that rivals the taste of tomatoes just picked from the garden, but with a two-year shelf life.”
The products have no artificial flavorings or colorings and no thickening agents. Red Gold’s tomatoes are grown in Indiana, northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Anderson says local companies are used whenever possible for the additional ingredients in Red Gold products, such as peppers in the brand’s salsa.
From Farm to Table
In the life of a Red Gold tomato plant, it is planted, matures in about 110 days, and is then machine-harvested and transported in bulk containers to a processing facility. When tomatoes are received at the plant selected for processing, the period of time from the trailer to the can is only about 10 minutes. The products are cooked in the can for about 20 minutes and then cooled, stacked and warehoused.
The efficient processing results in more than 100 styles and flavors of tomato products, including whole peeled, diced and stewed, juice, ketchup, sauce, and salsa. While most of the company’s cans sport the colorful yellow-and-red Red Gold labels, the firm also packages products under the Sacramento name for West Coast consumers and the Tuttorosso name for East Coast distribution.
Scott Smith says the growers and Red Gold want the public to know they are producing a safe, economical, nutritious food. “What is there not to like about the Indiana tomato? People desire to be connected to the land, and want to know where their food is coming from,” he says. “Buying locally, the consumer is supporting their own community, while being confident what they’re buying is good.”
Discover more articles about Indiana farmers and agricultural business at My Indiana Home.