Founder of Progresso, Giuseppe Uddo, arrived in New Orleans in 1907.
One of the success stories of the French Quarter is Progresso. The soup label started as a produce company in what was then called Little Palermo. Giuseppe Uddo came to New Orleans with his wife from Sicily. Uddo went to work for his brother-in-law’s food import business. When his brother-in-law returned to Italy, Uddo found a job with other relatives. When that business went bankrupt, Jacob Cusimano, who owned a macaroni factory in the Quarter, helped Uddo start his own business. Cusimano offered Uddo olives, cheeses and tomato paste, which Uddo relabeled. The business was soon thriving, with trucks and a warehouse on Decatur Street. He opened a grocery and just before World War I bought 3,000 cases of tomato paste from Italy. It proved to be a lucrative move as the paste was unavailable during the war.
Because he didn’t want to continue to rely on the imported paste, he bought a factory in Riverdale Calif., owned by the New Orleans’ Vaccaros of the Standard Fruit Co. It was the first plant in the United States to make tomato paste. Before long, the paste was being sold throughout the United States.
The family and the business moved to New York in 1930 and partnered with the Taorminas, his cousins, and together the Uddo and Taormina Corp. created the Progresso label.