Are these tomatoes San Marzano knockoffs


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.


Best Answer

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: