Mucci International Marketing Inc. tests about 100 new products each year in search of the next big thing.

“Hopefully, you get one or two great items,” said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing for Mucci, Kingsville, Ontario.

Spano is convinced Mucci has a winner in the Sun Drop, a new grape tomato that the company tested last year.

“It’s really one of the sweetest-tasting grape tomatoes we’ve seen on the market,” he said. “We’re very excited. We’ve been pleased with the trials.”

Mucci has just 2 acres of the newcomer planted in Ontario this year, but Spano said the company already is planning to expand with 10 acres planned for Mexico in the fall and 8 more acres planned for next year in Ontario.

“It’s a small planting,” said Spano, who said the Sun Drop will make its debut in late March or early April. “We want to get off on the right foot.”

Mucci also is touting Cute-Cumbers. While mini cucumbers typically measure five inches, Mucci’s new cucumbers are about 3 inches long. Spano said they have few seeds, are very crunchy and will be marketed as snack items.

“It’s hard to find a niche item and get away from the staples,” he said. “It gives growers something different to look forward to. It’s hard to make a living in market situations. With niche items, you can get into contract pricing.”

Mucci succeeded last year, Spano said, with Bella Sweet mini peppers and Rustico peppers.

“We can’t keep up with demand,” Spano said of the peppers, which were rolled out in late 2009.

Mucci, of course, isn’t the only greenhouse grower trialing dozens of new items or pinning high hopes on a promising new product. Other Ontario greenhouse company developments:

Chris Mastronardi, owner of Double Diamond Acres Ltd., Kingsville, said his company has several new specialty tomato varieties this year, including cocktail tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, a new small tomato that resembles a berry in shape, a new roma on the vine, and some heirloom varieties. “All of them look to have great potential,” he said.

Erie James Ltd., Leamington, plans to introduce baby graffiti eggplant and baby white eggplant. Director Mark Slater said the baby eggplants will be available in bulk and tray packs. He said the greenhouse products have more uniform size than field-grown eggplants.

Kyle Moynahan, salesman at Jem-D International, Leamington, said the company is testing a few new varieties and is excited by an incredibly sweet “one-bite” cherry tomato. Several other varieties are in the final testing stages and show promise, he said.

Mastronardi Produce, Kingsville, rolled out Zima, a sweet orange grape tomato, at the Produce Marketing Association’s 2010 Fresh Summit. Executive vice president Paul Mastronardi said Zima was so well received the crop was sold before Mastronardi’s staff left the convention.

Peter Quiring, owner of Nature Fresh Farms Inc., Leamington, said the company has expanded its trial area to include 80 varieties of peppers and 70 varieties of tomatoes.

Matt Mastronardi, vice president of sales and marketing at Pure Hot House Foods Inc., Leamington, said the company trials more than 100 varieties every year. An as-yet-unnamed mini pepper variety was selected the best overall pepper at last year’s Perfect Pepper competition in Leamington.