(July 3, PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) His first seven years with The Oppenheimer Group were so good that Casey Houweling has signed on for five more.

Delta, British Columbia-based Houweling’s Hot House has extended its relationship with Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer, which markets the company’s greenhouse tomatoes, through 2013.

Houweling’s products were marketed by BC Hot House Foods Inc., Vancouver, from 1985 until the company started its relationship with Oppenheimer in 2001.

“With BC Hothouse, we were pooled together with other growers,” Houweling said. “Now we’ve built our own brand. We’ve got our own identity.”

Houweling didn’t offer specific numbers, but he said the company’s sales have increased significantly during its relationship with Oppenheimer, which has broadened the company’s customer base and increased its logistic efficiencies.

Houweling’s grows tomatoes from March through November in Vancouver and has year-round supplies from Oxnard, Calif. The company recently started construction of a 40-acre expansion in Oxnard that will give the company 125 acres in that location when the project is completed in October.

The company also is replacing its Oxnard warehouse with a new facility on site. Houweling said the warehouse will have racked storage, a bigger cooler and an energy efficient system that takes heat out of the cooler and moves it into the greenhouse.

“Our energy input in the new facility will be almost all generated on site, either by solar panels or heat pumps,” he said.

The tomato industry has been hit hard in recent weeks by a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak that public health officials have linked to the category.

Houweling said his company has been helped by the fact that it identifies its tomatoes as products of California or Canada. Neither of those growing areas has been implicated in the investigation.

The Food and Drug Administration has advised consumers not to eat fresh roma or red, round tomatoes unless they are sourced from areas approved by the agency. California and Canada were among the first growing areas cleared by the FDA.

It also helped that some of the varieties grown by Houweling’s — including strawberry, Amorosa and Dulcinea Rosso Bruno — were not implicated in the outbreak.

“We’re going to come through this fairly unscathed,” Houweling said. “It’s difficult to predict demand in the market, but it hasn’t affected us to the extent it has some other guys that have been lumped in by the FDA.”

Houweling said the company also plans to have a new, as-yet-unnamed grape tomato variety available in October. Grape tomatoes have not been implicated in the outbreak.