Genoa, 1918: Igino Mazzola founded his one-person business specialising in exporting fish and fish products. Sanctions applied to Italy following the conquest of Ethiopia slowed down relations with other countries and forced him to diversify his business. He decided to invest in a sea with an even greater oily fish population, the northern Adriatic, and he bought a plant to process sardines and oily fish in Marano Lagunare, in the province of Udine.
The company’s story became interwoven with that of the fishing community and with the women of Marano, who would prepare the catch. The facility at Marano Lagunare was renovated in 1938, when the area was very poor and the local people practically existed on just the small amount of fish offered up by the lagoon. There were few fishing boats and so Igino Mazzola built a new fleet of 18 crafts; and even today, some of these boats are remembered, like the “Teresina prima”, the “9”, the flagship “IGMA”, the “5”, and the “Alex”.
From Istria came expert fishermen to teach those in the lagoon how to fish in deep sea waters, overcoming the exceptional difficulties caused by war. Mazzola therefore, was able to create crews who within a short time, had become skilled fishermen in the Adriatic, bringing wealth to the community and also boosting the local fish market. The fleet was then sold back to the same fishermen, who became owners and also continued to provide the base for the raw materials needed by the cannery. The relations between the factory and the community are based on the rituals and written rules in the Regulations governing the fishermen of Marano, signed by the town’s mayor in 1899.
This document testifies to the tradition of mutual solidarity and ethics governing relations between the sea and those who make their livelihood from it: it deals with the fish species to be caught, methods used to assign the “seraia”, i.e., gathering in an area of the Lagoon.
Even today, relations with suppliers are based on trust and a shared sense of ethics, a code of the sea, reinforced with business expansion and market evolution and a rigid Quality system that uses documents and procedures to guarantee quality standards. As well as Marano, in that period, the company set up other plants in Lisignano and Isola di Sansego (Istria) as well as on the Adriatic shore, at Porto Tolle, in the province of Rovigo.
The sardine cannery broadened the product range to include eels, mackerel and tuna. Although the fleet and the two canneries in Istria were lost in the post-war period, in 1948 Igino Mazzola experienced a rebirth, investing in technology and becoming a public limited company.
In 1958 the 100-gram Maruzzella brand was created and single-portion formats revolutionised the tuna market. The new challenge faced by Igino Mazzola passed from the decision to process a branded consumer product that was hard to come by. In that period, investments focused on the possibility to source raw materials, purchasing from the Japanese fleet fishing in the Atlantic.
A decade later, a cannery in Loano with the brands Peschereccio and La Pinta was purchased from Italian Company Pisonis.
Once quality standards were guaranteed, innovation began to focus on packaging, the modern means of promoting new style in food. The Maruzzella brand was launched on the market in 1958, in 100 and 200 gram cans, a ground-breaking moment for production in Italy and in the world, with its single-portion formats in a period when tuna was still canned in formats over one kilo.
Tuna in oil was once packaged in barrels or even, like it is today, sold in 5 or 10 kg cans. Manufacturers were generally used to placing the most current product in cans of less than a net kilo, while La Mazzola envisaged that future consumption would be orientated towards even smaller formats, perfecting the canning of the brand in net weights of 100, 200, 300, 400, 800 grams only, with controlled weight and price using only carefully prepared prime ingredients, with even quality, allowing it to become successfully established with a top-quality, constant product at affordable prices.
In the 1970s, the company was the first to start using the aluminium can with white enamel interior: aluminium does not rust, has a much easier opening – without oil splashes – and makes it easier to empty the can. In the early 2000s, to meet market demand (top quality and competitive prices), the company began producing abroad, giving up on aluminium (which not all factories could use), in favour of steel, as used by all the other manufacturers.
Today, Igino Mazzola SpA distributes the quality of its selections on both EU and non-EU markets, continuing to take on board new consumer tastes, which increasingly focus on a varied diet.
Our canned products bring 13 species of fish to tables the world over, through an increasingly capillary sales network.
Company choices continue to be dictated by traditions passed down over many years in business.