The Produce Exchange, a Livermore, Calif.-based distributor-shipper specializing in tomatoes and other vegetables, is marketing its first full commercial season of Tesoro tomatoes.
The roma hybrid is all flesh with no gel cavity, said Marty Mazzanti, founder of The Produce Exchange, whose staff first discovered the Tesoro variety in 2006 during taste tests in Spain by Nunhems Seeds Private Ltd.
“It’s our practice to ask the breeders what tomatoes they take home to eat,” Mazzanti said.
The Produce Exchange immediately purchased a supply of Tesoro seeds and has been growing experimental plots in Mexico, he said. The greenhouse-grown Tesoros are “not grower friendly and produce less than other roma varieties,” Mazzanti said.
As a result, the price of the Tesoros is higher than other romas.
Focusing first on foodservice customers, the tomatoes quickly made believers of the company’s customers, Mazzanti said.
“The initial response was that they loved the tomato, but that it was too expensive,” he said. “After using the Tesoros for two months, everything changed.”
The test marketing expanded to West Coast retailers in 2010, Mazzanti said.
“The Tesoro quickly became the bestselling non-grape packaged tomato in the category — and without cannibalizing the sales of other varieties,” he said.
The Produce Exchange, which owns the North America rights to sell the variety to retail, projects it can supply 2,000 stores this season, Mazzanti said, and will expand growing acreage next year.
The Tesoros are packaged in 22-ounce resealable bags with a suggested retail price of $3.99 to $2.99 on promotion, Mazzanti said. The tomatoes are imported through McAllen, Texas, and Nogales, Ariz., he said.