How Progresso got its start
Progresso is now known across the U.S. for its savory soups, but did you know that the business dates back to the late 1800s in Italy?
Giuseppe Uddo was just nine years old when he began selling olives and cheeses from a horse-drawn cart in Sicilian villages.
Giuseppe immigrated to America in 1907 and quickly discovered there was no way to get the tasty Italian ingredients he grew up with. Within a few years, he started a small business importing tomato paste and olives, bringing some of his favorite flavors to his new home in New Orleans. He grew the business to include a warehouse and a small grocery in the French Quarter.
Giuseppe later opened a factory in California, the first in the country to make canned foods that were previously available only in Italy.
He soon expanded the business to New York City, where the Italian-American community there embraced the quality and flavor of ingredients. He named it Progresso.
By the 1930s, Progresso was known throughout the northeastern U.S. for superior tomatoes and tomato paste. The company expanded its offerings to olive oil, roasted peppers, anchovies and other authentic Italian ingredients.
During World War II, when importing goods from Europe became difficult, Progresso started canning and bottling foods domestically. In 1942, the business bought a factory in Vineland, New Jersey. The plant was in the heartland of Italian farmers and within reach of several major cities (which also remains an advantage for the continuing operations for the brand there today).
Progresso began creating soups as a way to keep the factory busy during the winter months when vegetables were out of season. Workers followed original family recipes that were scribbled on the walls of the building. Before long, Progresso had introduced America to minestrone, lentil, split pea and other soups.
During the 1950s, Progresso foods stretched to supermarkets all over the U.S. The company helped open the door for other immigrant enterprises and ethnic foods to reach Americans on a greater scale.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Progresso became renowned for its remarkable soups. Its line of premium soups expanded to include flavors such as Italian Wedding Soup, New England Clam Chowder and Beef Barley. Today, Progresso now offers Heart Healthy soups and Progresso Light.
“Make it Progresso or Make it Yourself” became the company’s now classic slogan. It highlighted the homemade taste and authenticity of Progresso foods.
Following Giuseppe’s death, Progresso was sold in 1969. It became part of General Mills in the Pillsbury acquisition.
Today, well over a century since Giuseppe rolled his cart of olives and cheeses through Sicilian villages, the business he created continues to deliver quality foods across America.
Editor’s note: Look for more posts in our “Origin Stories” series in our History category.
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