Tomato shortage makes foodservice operators adjust purchases - The Packer

Tomato shortage makes foodservice operators adjust purchases

03/17/2011 11:38:15 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Mike Spinazzola, president of DRS Inc., San Diego, which procures produce for Subway, said Subway continues to provide tomatoes as sandwich ingredients but said Subway was struggling to find high-quality tomatoes.

He said DRS has instructed its repackers to do more in-depth sorting in the chain’s work to provide tomatoes at prices acceptable to franchisees.

“What we have to do is balance our needs with what’s out there in the growing regions,” Spinazzola said. “If there’s not a substantial amount of supply, our corporate quality assurance team has to open or widen its specs’ a little so we can get enough supply to fill the needs of our sandwiches but never compromise quality.”

Spinazzola advised growers to be careful in keeping prices so high that it stunts demand. If people stop buying and demand doesn’t return as fast as falling prices, he said it could lower prices even more.

In mid-March, he said prices were beginning to fall from the high $20s to the lower $20s for the mature greens. DiMare quoted $27.95 for 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% No. One or better for the 5x6s.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 16 reported the same price for south Florida production and said 6x6s and 6x7s were selling for $25.95.

Reggie Brown, manager of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said tomato restaurant signs have started coming down.

“Relief is on the way,” he said March 16. “It’s unfortunate when our customers due to a lack of availability remove tomatoes from menus or reduce their offering, but hopefully they will appreciate the contribution tomatoes make to their product and quickly remove the signs and put us back on the menus.”

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