Celebrating 25 Years of Seggiano: Real Food From Italy
Where it all started…
Following a chance encounter at Roma Ciampino Airport, where they discovered a mutual passion for Italian food and rural life, Peri & David began producing small batches of their now best-selling Lunaio extra virgin olive oil from the Olivastra Seggianese olive trees on their organic Tuscan farm and surrounding groves.
“Our own olive grove has about 500 trees – many over 1,000 years old – of a variety unique to Monte Amiata, the dormant volcano sacred to the Ancient Etruscans, where Peri and I by chance ended up,” says David.
A meticulous focus on good practice
Over time, the range has expanded to offer a wide selection of regional specialities sourced from across the Italian peninsula. Each product comes from other smallholders and family businesses with the same passion for quality ingredients, provenance and non-industrial production methods.
“If it’s not something we’d happily eat ourselves or feed to our family and friends, you won’t find it under the Seggiano brand,” says Peri. Her meticulous, unswerving focus on good food production practice has always been core to brand decisions.
“Each ingredient of every recipe is scrutinised during product development. Anything potentially harmful to health is out. If there’s any aspect to production that may degrade nutritional content or the taste of a product, we’ll push our producers for an innovative workaround. It can add years to the pro-dev process but is always worth it in the end.”
“Our intimate partnership with producers gives us plenty of room to experiment with recipes in pursuit of perfection. There’s an open line between us: a shared goal to create truly exceptional products, leading to lots of innovation over the years, such as extending shelf life using natural antioxidants in place of chemical preservatives. We’ve always favoured slower, natural production methods, strictly avoiding any use of industrial additives, emulsifiers, binding agents, thickeners and colourants. We’re fully involved in product development, every step of the way: from farm to fork”.
This hands-on approach goes above and beyond quality control; Seggiano Organic Chocolate Spreads were the first to market made without palm oil, years before this environmental issue became of mainstream consumer concern.
“We’ve been donating a percentage of profits from our Raw Honey sales to fund research into bee colony collapse and preserve insect habitats for nearly 20 years now,” says David. “All of the milk, butter and eggs used in our recipes are organic, as this certification ensures better animal welfare than free-range and other options. Our brand will never sell meat or fish products. We’re working towards eliminating plastics from our packaging, too. We’re not just following consumer trends, though – ethics have always held a lead role in our business, ever since we first wrote our company manifesto, many, many moons ago.”
The Anglo-Italian connection
Italians are very attached to their local culinary customs, which can vary even from village to village.
“Maybe it helped us as non-Italians to see the bigger picture and cherry-pick the country’s standout regional specialities,” says David. “Our experience in the UK and international markets has helped us further refine the products likely to do well overseas. Travelling across Italy to spend time with suppliers is a big part of the job, and it’s certainly a highlight.”
A good grasp of rural Italian culture has been essential throughout. “Our producers appreciate that these eccentric Brits speak their language, farm their land responsibly, understand artisan food and nuances of their culture. The fact we’re also artisan producers ourselves hasn’t hurt either – our endeavours arise from mutual respect between us and the producers we’ve partnered with” he continues.
Peri and David are still as active as ever, and have a few new exciting products coming to market: a fantastic chocolate panettone, an entirely new category of semi-fresh herbs (that taste freshly picked but have 6+ months shelf life once opened), and a single-estate organic Taralli made using ancient wheat cultivars. They plan to continue making their premium extra virgin olive oil long into the future.
A word on sustainability
“In the early eighties, a master olive pruner of local legend said something to me that made a lasting impression… ‘This land and these trees were here long before us. They nourish and provide for our families. We’re just their temporary custodians, tasked with helping them continue to flourish long after we’re gone’” Says David.
“This man was taught olive husbandry by his father, who had learnt from his own father and so on; this is the continuation of an oral tradition stretching back some 8,000 years, to when humankind first began domesticating this marvellous, health-giving evergreen.
This holistic, sustainable way of relating to the lands that feed us is central to countless agricultural communities across the planet and will continue to inform our decisions both as producers and brand curators.
As long as we and our partners endeavour to leave the farmlands we tend in better condition to how we received them, we will retire happy”.