Jon Esformes, CEO of US-based Sunripe Certified Brands about Bella Roma

“Launching the first tomato variety from our in-house breeding program was very rewarding”

“We grow open-field tomatoes in strategic locations throughout the country,” says Jon Esformes, fourth-generation leader of Sunripe Certified Brands. “Our growing locations complement each other, offering year-round supplies for our customers.” Acreage in the growing regions is adjusted based on consumption trends during certain times of the year.

Farming operations throughout the country
Each farming operation is stand-alone, but is supported by the home-based farming operation in Florida. Sunripe just finished its Mexican harvest two weeks ago and immediately started clean-up and preparation for the next Mexican season. At the same time, preparations are going on in South Florida for the fall crop. Harvest in Central Florida is at its tail-end while Georgia started this week and will be harvesting throughout the month of June. Virginia will start its harvest upon completion in Georgia and the state’s season typically runs from 4th of July until October. On the West Coast, Sunripe’s California operation will start harvest around June 15 and continue until the end of October.

Jon Esformes in the middle together with a father-son team that also works with Sunripe.

Difficult marketing season - shortage through middle of June
“It has been an interesting year,” shared Esformes. “It is as difficult as the El Niño year that presented itself to North America last year. This year’s La Niña climate created a dry and mild environment that resulted in perfect growing conditions, outstanding quality as well as yields for our entire Florida operations. However, this makes it difficult from a marketing perspective,” Esformes said. The excellent weather circumstances brought harvest in the southern part of the country forward, creating a supply gap until harvest starts in the regions that typically follow swift after the south. “As a result, we are expecting a shortage through the middle of June when Georgia, South Carolina and California get in full swing.” 

Snacking category drives growth
Sunripe grows Romas, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, vine-ripened round tomatoes as well as mature green tomatoes. The varieties vary by season, but Esformes sees a noticeable trend of the snacking tomato category leading the increase in consumption. “Over the past 15 years, this category has seen a 40 percent increase. It’s driven by the quick-service restaurant business that has upgraded its menus and provides a healthier consumption option.” 

In-house breeding program 
Over the past five years, Sunripe has been working diligently on its own proprietary breeding program. “This past November, we commercially introduced our proprietary variety Bella Roma,” said Esformes. It’s the first variety that was developed from Sunripe’s in-house breeding program. “It is the return of the Bella Roma brand to the market. This brand was launched in 1987 and quickly, it became the premier year-round brand of Roma tomatoes in the US,” mentioned Esformes. In 2006, the brand was discontinued as Sunripe needed to re-evaluate the business and understand the market place for Bella Roma. With the return of the Bella Roma brand, 100 percent of the tomatoes that are part of this brand, are proprietary varieties. “It remains our passion today to be certain that all tomatoes inside the Bella Roma box have the color, flavor, quality and size that our customers require. We continue to work on developing other varieties under the Bella Roma brand.”

Jon Esformes

Sustainable farming
Esformes’ great-grandfather immigrated into the US in the early 1900s. He started selling watermelons with a horse and a wagon in the streets of New York City after having left his first job in a shoe factory. “The glue that was used in the factory made him sick and he needed to work outside,” shared Esformes. As a result, all generations have always felt that health and well-being is a key element to the success of Sunripe’s farming operations. “The entire Sunripe family works in deliberate and intentional ways to ensure we all share the fairest and safest work environment possible. These practices also guarantee that our sustainable farming will continue to preserve the land for future generations.”

For more information:
Jon Esformes 
Sunripe Certified Brands
Tel: 941-722-3291

Publication date:

Receive the daily newsletter in your email for free | Click here

Other news in this sector:

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber