San Antonio-based Desert Glory Ltd. plans major expansions of its Cherub and Sunburst tomato products in 2011, said Bryant Ambelang, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
On the Cherub, Desert Glory will focus on pushing distribution east of the Mississippi, with the Northeast a major target, Ambelang said.
“We launched the retail version of it four years ago and demand continues to exceed expectations,” he said.
Desert Glory expects to increase Cherub production by 40% this season, Ambelang said. For many of the company’s customers, those extra volumes can’t come soon enough, he said.
“Our customers have been extremely patient,” he said.
“We still have a number of markets to roll it out in. We’re now in every market west of the Mississippi, so this year we’re focusing on the east.”
In markets where the Cherub is sold, it enjoys 60% of the small-tomato category share, Ambelang said.
The expansion of the Cherub program this season won’t be hindered by a lawsuit Desert Glory was entangled in with Plant City, Fla.-based Ag-Mart Produce Inc., which does business as Santa Sweets Inc.
Desert Glory had filed suit in September because Ag-Mart produced a packaged tomato product Desert Glory said was too similar to its yellow-bottomed, yellow-labeled Cherubs.
The suit was dropped in November after Ag-Mart agreed to stop making the product look so similar to Desert Glory's.
“I’m very appreciative of what Santa Sweets did,” Ambelang said. “Everybody shook hands and went back to growing tomatoes.”
The Cherub program isn’t the only one Desert Glory expects to expand in 2011. The company also will start marketing its Sunburst yellow tomato outside of Texas, Ambelang said.
The cherry-sized Sunburst, introduced in Texas markets in June, wasn’t necessarily a marketer’s dream, Ambelang said.
“Who eats yellow tomatoes?” he said. “Nobody.”
But the product had such a good flavor, Desert Glory had to find a way to make it work, Ambelang said. Test-marketing found that moms saw the Sunburst as a novel way to get their kids to try tomatoes, a notoriously hard commodity to get younger people to like, he said.
Distribution of the product will expand in 2011 to the West Coast, Ambelang said.