During PMA 2018 in Orlando, Florida October 18-19 where more than 20,000 participants from all over the world attended the Fresh Summit Convention & Expo visitors to Village Farms booth were asked to vote for their favorite tomato. Village Farms has tallied the results of their, ‘Are you Sweet or Smooth?’ tomato taste challenge and the company reports they had a great response and turnout. Participants cast their vote by stating their preference for either Village Farms “Sweet” red Heavenly Villagio Marzano tomato or the newest variety to their offerings, the “Smooth” orange Lorabella Blossom tomato. While each tomato offers a unique flavor profile, what Village Farms discovered is that those in the ‘Sweet’ camp and those in the ‘Smooth’ camp are practically equal. Convention goers liked the Lorabella Blossom tomato almost as much as Heavenly Villagio Marzano tomato.
The results are not surprising given the growth in specialty tomatoes over the past several years. According to the company, this is largely due to changing consumer preferences for more unique flavors and color experiences. “It is wonderful to compliment the Nielsen consumption data we use with this rich qualitative taste challenge data that shows consumers are becoming more adventurous in their taste preferences, and delighting in our little orange snacking tomato Lorabella Blossom just as much as they have been with our Heavenly Villagio Marzano tomato”, said Helen L. Aquino, Director of Brand Marketing & Communication for Village Farms. After the success of Heavenly Villagio Marzano, which Village Farms says is the only authentic mini san Marzano available in North America, the company was sure the market was ready for the smooth taste of Lorabella Blossom. This tomato is also in the San Marzano family and was launched last year. Aquino went on to say that while the orange tomato is unconventional in color compared to the sea of red dominating retail displays, this promotion has shown consumers are ready for new flavor opportunities in a category of sameness.
Participants in the promotion were entered in a random drawing to win a Traeger grill. They also had an opportunity to provide feedback on why they liked either tomato. Some of the comments for the Lorabella Blossom tomato described the tomato as ‘tasty’, ‘less acidic’, ‘zippy’, ‘refreshing’, ‘smooth’, and ‘outstanding’. For the Heavenly Villagio Marzano tomato the comments ranged from ‘sweet’, ‘taste like a real tomato’, ‘zesty’, to ‘crisp texture’. Common themes were ‘just picked from the vine’ and interestingly enough, ‘garden fresh flavor’, which is a tagline the company already uses in its communications.
The company said it is ramping up production on both the Heavenly Villagio Marzano and Lorabella Blossom tomatoes and is ready for a strong winter season with these varieties as well as all their other tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumber varieties.