California and Baja California tomato grower-shippers said the retail market seemed steady in early August, and each mentioned different trends in the market.
Although it’s not a new trend, Jeff Dolan, field operations manager for DiMare Co., Newman, Calif., said he’s noticed continuing fragmentation in the types of tomatoes offered at retail.
“Instead of two or three types with big displays, there are multiple displays of every little niche tomato under the sun in there,” he said.
DiMare ships 25-pound bulk cartons of tomatoes. It grows mature-green, round yellow and red roma tomatoes in Baja California and California.
Brian Bernauer, sales director at Fresh Pac International, Oceanside, Calif., expressed frustration at seeing retail prices at $1-1.69 a pound for romas earlier in the summer when shippers were getting just $6 each for a 25-pound box.
“I don’t know if they are selling more,” he said when asked what retailers were doing to increase sales.
Fresh Pac sells to retailers, wholesalers and foodservice buyers, and about 90% is shipped in 25-pound boxes.
Grower-shipper Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, continues to work more closely with retailer and foodservice customers, instead of selling to wholesalers and repackers as it used to, said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing. It operates now with a more consumer-centric strategy, placing top priority on providing high-quality and high-flavor tomatoes, he said.
Because about 85% of its tomato sales are pre-committed, the company grows the types of tomatoes that its customers request, Munger said.
Andrew & Williamson supports retailers by working with them on advertisements, helping them find ways to differentiate themselves within their markets, helping them promote when the competition is not promoting and helping establish aggressive pricing, Munger said.
Advertising gets the most immediate gains in tomato sales, Munger said, but merchandising is a long-term tool that can build sales over time.
“An effective ad can change volume by double or triple,” he said.
Andrew & Williamson also provides custom value-added packing to retailer customers, which can help a store distinguish itself from the competition. Andrew & Williamson offers about 20 different custom packs that can be sent directly to customers from the initial handling points in Baja California, Munger said.
Options include various sizes of clamshells, grab-and-go bags, cello packs and others.
“We have the equipment and expertise that we can pack any pack a customer wants,” Munger said.