After tomato sauce, Pesto sauce is the second sauce most sold in the world, but the vast majority of what is sold as pesto is an example of “Italian sounding” products.
Today, Genoese pesto can be found in supermarkets across the world. However, if we consider that only 10% of true pesto is exported, it’s easy to see how the vast majority of what is sold as pesto isn’t actually pesto.
The pesto market is a considerable business in the US worth about 120 million euro. However, a closer look will reveal that this pesto is produced locally, or at least not in Italy, and made with different ingredients, for example with canola oil or with basil from California. In the States, as well as in other countries, jars of pesto sauce that is stabilized with a thermal process (which damages the characteristics of the basil), or a chemical process (i.e. by adding preservatives) can often be found in supermarkets.
For this reason, the main goal of the Consortium of Genoese Pesto is trying to obtain an EU protection. Since pesto is considered a sauce and not an intellectual property, it hasn’t been able to obtain the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) certification. The president of Consorzio Pesto Genovese has recently declared: “we have only obtained the TSG (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed) at the moment, which is a bland certification. Consorzio’s certification is currently valid only locally, in fact only Coop and Conad – two Italian supermarket brands – recognize our logo.”
This is a set of rules which defines not only the place of production (the entire territory of the Liguria region) and the production phases of true pesto, but also the ingredients to use:
- PDO Genoese Basil (not less than 25%)
- Italian extra virgin olive oil
- PDO “Parmigiano Reggiano” or “Grana Padano” cheese
- PDO Pecorino cheese
- Garlic (grown in Italy)
- Pine nut grown in the Mediterranean area (obtained from Pinus Pinea)
We’ve already talked about EU protection of Pesto sauce in our previous post Ligurian pesto sauce made by mortar candidate to intangible cultural heritage list.