Consumer demand for taste, quality and appearance is driving the growth.
While demand for greenhouse-grown tomatoes is increasing, the demand for field-grown tomatoes is declining.
Since 2007, the volume of field tomatoes, both regular and vine-ripe, sold in the U.S. has declined by nearly 30%, according to Nielsen.
The price paid by consumers for greenhouse-grown produce is over and above that for field tomatoes. In 2011, Nielsen says the average price paid by consumers for greenhouse round tomatoes was $2.70 per pound as compared to $2.31 per pound for field tomatoes.
The consumer seeking greenhouse-grown tomatoes pays a premium for a premium product. Where product mislabeling occurs, the consumer pays a nearly 40 cents-per-pound premium for what’s essentially a field-grown tomato masquerading as a greenhouse tomato.
Consumers seeking a greenhouse-grown tomato or other produce need some assurance the product they purchase is greenhouse-grown. The same can be said for the grower who makes significant investments in greenhouse technology.
Efforts are under way by Certified Greenhouse Farmers to establish at the state and federal levels an enforceable definition for hydroponic greenhouse produce that’s largely harmonized with that under consideration by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The definition defines greenhouses as:
- a fully enclosed permanent aluminum or steel structure clad in either glass or impermeable plastic for the controlled environment growing of certified greenhouse/hothouse vegetables using together: computerized irrigation and climate control systems, including heating and ventilation capability; a soilless medium that substitutes for soil (under the greenhouse/hothouse); hydroponic methods; and Integrated Pest Management, without the use of herbicides.
Certified Greenhouse Farmers’ members all meet this definition, and our organization has an independent certification program in place, established under the direction of Scientific Certification Systems.
The SCS program provides independent validation that a greenhouse operation meets the definition.
As fresh greenhouse-grown produce continues to increase in popularity, now is the time to take action and define what greenhouse means.