Oxnard, Calif.-based Deardorff Family Farms should be in a better position this year than last year to fill orders for its proprietary Tasti-Lee tomato, president Tom Deardorff said.
“We couldn’t satisfy the demand last year with our limited supply,” he said. “We’re excited to see what a full-fledged program will do for us this year.”
The company also plans to introduce an organic version by mid-July.
“We’ll be the first participant in the Tasti-Lee program nationally to have an organic version,” Deardorff said.
The company already has a full line of organic vegetables and has achieved good penetration among retailers who offer organic produce, he said.
“They’ve definitely expressed an interest in having Tasti-Lee in their stores, and they need an organic version,” he said.
The Tasti-Lee was developed by the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences’ Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm and has been distributed by a handful of growers in the East for several years.
Deardorff Family Farms grows in the Oxnard area from July through November and sources from Mexico during the winter.
The Tasti-Lee has much more flavor than a traditional vine-ripe, Deardorff said.
“We pick it with a higher color and a higher level of brix and get it to the market quicker than normal distribution chains can,” he said.
The company’s direct-to-retail program “eliminates the middleman,” he added.
The large, field-grown tomatoes are sold in 1-pound, flow-wrapped punnets containing three or four tomatoes each.
The company now offers 3-foot-by-3-foot cardboard display cases to help merchandise the product.
“It has opened up a lot of opportunities for merchandising in-store,” Deardorff said.
So far, reception of the Tasti-Lee has been great, he said.
“If we match their success on the East Coast, we’ll need to continue to grow the program fairly significantly year over year to keep up with it.”