Fresh tomato shippers focus on quality

05/20/2011 12:32:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Excellent quality helps top companies get noticed among a slew of tomato sellers.

For Be Wise Ranch in Escondido, Calif., the key is offering high-quality product that will make good arrivals as far away as the East Coast, owner Bill Brammer said.

It’s easy to find cheaper product than what Be Wise Ranch offers, Brammer admits, but he has found that supermarket chains place as high a value on quality as they do on price, especially when they’re distributing their product to stores far away from tomato-growing areas.

“If it doesn’t make arrivals, they may save money buying it, but when it gets there, they don’t have anything to sell,” he said.

The company, which has been in business for 35 years, has developed a reputation for offering flavorful, field-grown vine-ripe, grape and heirloom tomatoes from July until October or November, Brammer said.

The company has been doing well, despite the sagging economy, as major retailers continue their quest for quality.

“There seems to be more demand than supply of good quality product,” Brammer said.

Similarly, Nogales, Ariz.-based Bernardi & Associates, which has a location in San Diego, makes quality a priority and works with repackers and wholesalers to set up promotions with retail and foodservice customers, company president Joe Bernardi said.

The company doesn’t buy low-cost product if it’s not up to par, Bernardi said. But occasionally, he’ll find quality product at a value price and is able to pass on the savings to his customers.

“We add value by helping customers secure the right quality and right value for their needs,” he said.

The DiMare Co. grows roma and mature-green tomatoes at its Newman, Calif., location but also has made a name for itself by offering yellow round tomatoes for the past 25 years, said Jeff Dolan, field operations manager.

Yellow tomatoes look appealing, eat well and are “a good all-around tomato,” he said.

“They never will be a big-volume item,” he said, but still, yellow tomatoes have built up a following among chefs and consumers looking for something different, especially in salads where the yellow tomatoes complement red tomatoes and green bell peppers.

San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce focuses on offering customers the product they need on a year-round basis, said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing.

To accomplish its goal, the company grows its tomatoes in shade houses to minimize the risk of being out of stock because of disease pressures, which can be significant in Baja California, especially during the spring and summer.


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