Debi Street of VIllage Farms:

"US: "Brands are becoming increasingly important"

Sometimes there's a tomato variety in which everything comes together: a distinctive shape, a good flavour and the possibility of growing it all year round with a constant quality and flavour. The American Village Farms International found all of this in 72-154 RZ.+

Village Farms International is a leader in the area of cultivation and marketing and is the largest supplier of greenhouse grown fleshy vegetables in North America. The company, based on extensive market research, recently started a complete new branding strategy for its tomato assortment.



"Brands are becoming increasingly important," says Director of Variety Development & Innovation Debi Street. "By always supplying the same quality, weight and flavour under one brand and in one packaging the consumer trusts your product. This is why we work with the best growers, uphold strict quality and hygiene standards and choose the best varieties!"

Authentic 

For the latter, Street visits Rijk Zwaan's Trial Center Tomato in Kwintsheul twice a year. Always with Vice President of Production Tim Robinson, because picking a variety is a collaboration between cultivation and marketing. But both find flavour a priority. "You can sell every product once, but can you sell it a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time?" Robinson asks himself. 72-154 RZ convinced Street and Robinson straight away. Two years ago they tasted the variety in the demo greenhouse for the first time, when it was in Steenbergen. "There wasn't a combination of shape and flavour like that yet," Street remembers. "The product also feels authentic: this made for great branding possibilities."

Back in America, Village Farms started working with the product. Parallel to their own cultivation tests, an extensive market research started. A flavour profile was made and panels of consumers and food service companies were asked for their opinion. Cooks found it an excellent tomato to cook with, consumers found it child friendly. Based on this, a packaging was developed that made it easy to snack on. "This showed in the conversations I had with buyers," Street says. "If I brought a bag along, it would be empty by the end of the discussion."

Year round cultivation

Robinson is now also convinced of the cultivation qualities. "We grow on two locations, in Canada and in Texas, and this means we can offer a constant quality and flavour all year round. The good shelf life is also positive, as it is important for the large transport distances we have here." At the PMA fair in October 2011 the variety was introduced under the name ‘Heavenly Villagio Marzano’. The concept took hold fast, because now the product is on the shelves of all major retailers in the US and Canada. "We are going to upscale the production next year, as we have a shortage at the moment," reports Robinson. "No wonder," says Street. "Everybody like this tomato!"


Source: Seeds & Services, Rijk Zwaan

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