Quick-service restaurant Wendy’s will soon be sourcing only vine-ripened, greenhouse-grown tomatoes for its U.S. and Canada locations.
The transition is underway and expected to be complete by early 2019, according to a news release. Product will come from about a dozen suppliers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. In the U.S., tomatoes will be sourced from regions including the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast and the Great Lakes.
Wendy’s cited a focus on freshness and quality as the reason for the change.
Chief communications officer Liliana Esposito noted it is too soon to tell what the cost implications of the move will be.
“However, there is no plan to pass costs along via increased menu prices as a result of this initiative,” Esposito said. “We see this as a continued investment in the quality of our products.”
Along with quality, the company described consistency as an attractive attribute of greenhouse-grown tomatoes.
“Greenhouse farms provide supply predictability and quality assurance benefits including continuity of supply, protection of crops from harsh weather, safe indoor growing conditions and a significant reduction of chemical pesticides used on the plants,” Dennis Hecker, senior vice president of quality assurance, said in the release.
Wendy’s declined to say which suppliers it will be working with as part of the initiative.
The company operates more than 6,000 locations around the world.
Wendy’s and tomatoes were also in the news together back in 2016, when the Coalition of Immokalee (Fla.) Workers called for a boycott of Wendy’s because the company refused to sign on to the Fair Food Program. The company said in a blog post it was already paying a premium because all of its Florida tomato suppliers participated in the program.
Esposito said that situation did not figure into the decision to switch to greenhouse product.
“This is about bringing the best quality and tasting products to our customers,” Esposito said. “We have long upheld high standards of quality and a strong commitment to human dignity throughout our business and our supply chain ... All of our suppliers are bound to a strict code of conduct that requires ethical practices, and certain fresh produce suppliers, including all tomato suppliers, undergo third party-certified human rights assessments.
“This is an initiative that we’ve been working on for quite some time,” Esposito said. “We’ve been focused on tomatoes, but are exploring similar strategies for other whole, fresh produce. We are certainly encouraged by the social and environmental sustainability benefits we expect to see as a result of this new tomato sourcing strategy, including the inherent benefits of safe, indoor working conditions.”