How a clown conquered the world

Fresh produce sector increasingly relies on marketing

Producers looking to launch a new product or packing increasingly rely on professional marketing strategists and publicity agencies to get their message across. Most people in the agricultural community aren’t prone to this kind of creativity, and the vast majority happily delegates this part of the process.

There are, however, exceptions. Ab van Marrewijk and brother-in-law Jos van Mil have been growing tomatoes in The Netherlands together since '86, but soon found out that they were more interested in distinguishing themselves on the market than in shifting bulk. “We eventually came upon a tiny little tomato, inspired by Santa tomatoes in the UK,” says Jos. “We decided that the peculiar product was just perfect for the kind of niche we had in mind. The idea was to turn it into a specialty snack mostly aimed at children.”

Dubbed the ‘Tommies’, Van Mil and his partner started marketing the tomatoes and eventually settled on the idea of a clown: “In those days everybody was into Spongebob, so we were looking in that direction. In the end we decided that a clown was a good, funny image to represent the Tommies. That’s how it went.”

Both the formula and the logo proved successful. The Greenery picked up on the idea and helped the two entrepreneurs to distribute the Tommies. 1.3 hectares turned into 23 hectares in Holland, 38 in Spain and a couple of acres in Mexico. “We’re very grateful to the Greenery,” says Jos. “They really helped us out. They allowed us to develop the product and the image. And look at where we are today!”

“Marketing really is a hobby of mine,” Jos explains. “I know many growers hate having to do it, but I love walking down the street or visiting grocery stores and see how products are being marketed and displayed. We just can’t sit still, we have to come up with something new each month.”

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