Color and flavor compensate for appearance

Heirloom tomatoes garner increasing demand in North America

Like many other commodities these days, tomato season never really finishes, moving from district to district – or country – gives customers access to the fruit 365 days a year, both organic and conventional. 

The tomato category is diverse, there’s practically a tomato for every use and consumer: value, cooking tomatoes, slicers, and grape tomatoes for snacking. “Grape tomatoes - conventional and organic – yellow and red – the category continues to grow. They’re so portable,” says Dave Murray. “Heirlooms are making a large comeback for their diversity, flavor and colors,” he adds, noting that on the retail front, there’s an increasing demand for some of the “throwback varieties.” Tomatoes are currently sourced from Culiacan in Mexico and the California’s Baja peninsula. He says that supply is good and quality is excellent. “For the last 18 months, knock on wood, everything’s been (good) on weather front for tomatoes.” 

Color and flavor compensate for appearance
While the more vintage varieties of heirlooms have wonderful flavor, it’s their appearance that makes them a challenge to market at retail, he says. “On the growing side, the challenge would be producing something that shows well at the retail level,” he explains. “They could have characteristics that aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as a round red tomato, but I think some of the other attributes like the color and flavor certainly compensate for their shortcomings.” 

Tomato varieties, as well as berries and Brussels sprouts are all produced through a controlled growth program. “We work from a customer pull model. Our strategy is not ‘have product will sell’, it’s have customer will serve,” Murray says. He likens their process to a factory floor, growing only what has been requested, which can also help eliminate food waste. 

In the current social and political environment, Amalia Zimmerman-Lommel says they help farm workers realize that they have the power to speak up for themselves in any situation. “Our team members are empowered. They receive extended education to become knowledgeable of their rights and responsibilities," she says. Employees can speak up without fear of retaliation and know that they have the power to push the red button and stop processes if something is not right. "They are part of the supply chain and understand that they have a responsibility to the consumer. They have the right to be treated with dignity and with respect.” 

For more information: 
David Murray / Amalia Lommel 
Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce 
Tel: 805-797-2514 

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