Found this interesting post on the PMQ website.http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index.cgi/noframes/read/2422
Escalon Premier Brands & Stanislaus Food Products are the best packers of tomatoes in the world.
The two plants are only 13 miles apart on McHenry Avenue. They are in the bullseye of the finest growers in California. The climate, sun and soil unique to the San Joachine Valley is unparralleled in producing the best fruit anywhere.
What really sets both companies head and sholders above all of the competition is they only produce 'fresh pack' - not from re-manufactured (paste) products. Fresh pack defined is; The fruit is picked at the height of ripeness and trucked to a California Dept of Agriculture grading station. Here the state inspectors draw out a random core sample of the load in the trailer and assign a numeric score. The graders are looking for ripe - pink- green ratios. Mold, Color, MOT (material other than tomato) PH level and other factors. The higher the score the more money the farmer gets per ton. Only the best, highest scores get to either plants. If the load has anything below a certain score the load is diverted to another packer.
Next the tomatoes are floated off the trailers (Mater' Freighters) and washed before entering the plant. These tomatoes are harvested and arrive at the plants 24-7. They spend almost no time in the parking lots. The field coordinators are like air traffic controllers. They travel from farm to farm and determine the exact time to harvest so the flow through the plant is uninterrupted and the full trailers don't sit in the parking lots rotting.
The tomatoes are then hand sorted on a huge conveyor by 10-30 quality line workers. They cull out all of the undesireable fruit and let only the best pass through to the peeling, crushing, grinding, slicing and evaporation lines.
The next step is huge. If the cooked tomatoes go directly into the can they are called 'Fresh Pack'. They are only cooked once. If they go to the evaporators and are cooked to an industrial paste (very thick) needs to cut it with a knife or saw. Then packed in Drums or 500 gallon Mylar, Scholle Bags. Tomatoes don't like excessive heat. Since they are a fruit rather than a vegetable they naturally contain high levels of furctose sugar. These natural sugars carmelize and turn the product orange or brown rather than the vibrant red we associate with great tomatoes. Onec you scorch a tomato you can't undo the damage. It forever loses it's fresh, just from the vine taste and color. This product is called 'Industrial Tomato Paste'. The Paste is then stored until an order comes in for whatever: sauce, puree, BBQ sauce, juice etc. The paste is then dilluted with water to the desired thickness, measured with a refractometer, spiced or not, blended together in a mixer and heated once again to sterilize and hit with preservatives and filled into cans or pouches and labeled. The 2 step process is called re-manufactured. This is less expensive than fresh pack because the paste can be shipped by rail to a packing plant and rehydrated lets say in Ohio or Georgia. It cost a lot less to ship paste than it does water. The re-manners can operate plants all year long. Fresh Packers (Escalon & Stanislaus) only pack for about 100-120 days a year. They then shut down the plant and pickle it till next year. Once the rains come in late Sept or early October the fruit in the field gets unusable and pack season is over. That's why it's a 24-7 operation.
Both companies pack two levels of tomatoes based on specifications. Stanislaus' best line is branded 'Saparito' and Escalon's is 'Bonta'. These are the best of the best and have the highest NTSS (Natural Tomato Soluable Solids) percentages. The next line would be called 'Full Red' for Stanislaus and 'Emma Bella' or 'Cristiforo Columbo' in the Escalon label. These lines are exactly the same but are built to slightly lower specs. But still, very good products.
During the manufacturing process Stanislaus chooses to add Citric Acid to the hot tomatoes as they are being filled in the can. The Citric Acid acts as a preservative by balancing the Ph level so bacteria can't reproduce, eliminating spoilage and 'can bulge'. Escalon heats their product to an exact temprature and holds it there, much like pasteurizing milk, thus killing all of the bacteria and then fills and seals the cans (under vacuum) without using Citric. This subtle difference is the big sticking point. Some operators claim that the citric gives the tomatoes a tangy / tinny taste to the back of the tongue and salivary glands. Some don't see any difference.
Arrainge to have a side by side 'can cutting' in your store. To do it properly you'll need to have them bring a 'Brix Refractometer' to compare NTSS. After all, the only thing in the can is NTSS and water. The higher the NTSS means you can add water to your recipe and dillute the concentrated product to the desired thickness you want. Every % point in the brix scale means you can add one cup of water per can. When I did the studies on Edible Yield Ounces between both of these products the cost per EYO were virtually the same. Escalon products cost $1-2 a case more than Stanislaus' but the Bonta line HAD A 1-2% NTSS score above them and could be cut with water to equal out the same.
It's cheaper to buy either of these products than let's say a Hunt's Angelia Mia product because you can't dillute the already thin product. Even if the difference is $5 a case the math still works out in favor of the thicker, premium tomato. The others have too much water left in them.
Finally: It's a matter of personal taste, thickness, seeds, stems, and peel. In the big picture if you pay $20 or $22 for 6/#10 cans of product the cost per pizza will be the virtually the same because $2 divided by 700 - 900 EYO's doesn't even compute. Might make a pennys difference in the cost of the pizza. Go with the best.
Big Dave Ostrander / The Pizza Doctor.
EDIT (11/16/14): For the Wayback machine version of the above inoperative link, see http://web.archive.org/web/20031209050107/http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index.cgi/noframes/read/2422