Leggo’s Tomato Paste newWith a campaign featuring Gina Lollobrigida, Leggo’s changed its heritage from Cornish (Leggo is a Cornish name) to Italian. Abandoning recipes for cottage pie and Chilli Con Carne, future advertising focused on Italian dishes. Tomato paste formed the basis for many of these recipes. The first Leggo’s  Italian-style sauces were launched in 1975.

Authentic Leggo’s Pizza

Authentic pizza?

As early as 1957, Leggo’s had promoted its tomato paste as an ingredient in authentic Italian dishes. However, other advertising into the early ‘70s featured a range of cuisines, from traditional English to Mexican. The first “made to the authentic Italian recipe” series featured some rather dubious recipes. The one for “authentic Italian pizza” began with the instruction to “whip up a batch of your favourite dough” which was then laid in an 11-inch cake tin.  Maybe it took them a while to get the hang of this Italian thing.

In 1975, new canned tomato sauce for meats, and meat sauce for pasta were launched. A campaign featuring Italian film goddess Gina Lollobrigida reinforced the new continental image and the first  Italian Cookbook was released. (The same year Leggo’s Manwich – a sauce for minced meat – hit the market.  Presumably this aberration quickly sank into obscurity.)

Leggo’s Manwich launch advertisement

Women’s Weekly, July 1975

In 1978, Leggo’s celebrated the 30th anniversary of their tomato paste with a change of packaging. Now the words “Triplo concentrato di Pomodoro” and “Tipo Italiano” were included on the pack. The Leggo’s Italian range continued to expand with the introduction of “Al Dente” pasta in 1980.

As more Italian sauces and tomato products joined the range, many of the old favourites disappeared. In the ‘70s, you could still find five kinds of Leggo’s pickles and chutnies, plus lump-free “sandwich” versions of many of them. Most of these have gone the way of Manwich. Today, their Sweet Mustard Pickles and its Sandwich equivalent are the sole non-Italian survivors. And they’re not easy to find.

For more than 80 years, the Leggo’s products that graced traditional Aussie tables included English-style pickles, baked beans, jams and soups. So the claim that “For over 100 years, Leggo’s has helped teach Australians how to create, share and enjoy simple Italian food” is not strictly true. But certainly, for the last 40 years or so, they’ve been trying very hard to live up to the myth.