Heading into Labor Day weekend, there are short supplies of organic tomatoes of the round and roma types, with shippers reporting organic heirloom tomatoes from California and organic grape tomatoes from Baja California in relatively good supplies.
Michael DuPuis, who handles quality assurance and public relations for Divine Flavor, headquartered in Nogales, AZ, told OPN the availability of organic vine ripe and roma tomatoes from Mexico will be on the short side for most of September and October. Following the pattern of many other producers, Divine Flavor reduces its summer production of these varieties because of the many regional deals around the United States.
Michael DuPuis, quality assurance and public relations, Divine Flavor
Divine’s proprietary Magnifico sweet grape tomato, however, is in full production in Baja California with a very good supply of organic and conventional product throughout the fall, according to DuPuis. He said growing conditions have been excellent, so there are promotional opportunities on the organic grape tomato SKUs over the next couple of months.
DuPuis said Divine offers the product in a variety of different clamshell sizes to meet the needs of its customers. “We do offer our customers year-round production of organic Magnifico grape tomatoes,” DuPuis said, adding that demand for organic tomatoes continues to grow and Divine is continuingly increasing its production. DuPuis said Divine will have a greater variety of organic tomatoes when the West Mexico tomato deal from the state of Sinaloa starts to hit its stride in December
During the pandemic, DuPuis said organic tomato sales have received an extra boost as consumers appear to be drawn to the category. He noted that its container-centric, hydroponic hot-house setup allows for steady growth in the category.
Divine Flavor's magnifico sweet grape tomato
Alex Leon, a salesman for Bernardi & Associates in the organization’s Nogales office, agreed that supplies are currently short on the organic vine ripes and romas. “For the next couple of months, we will be short,” he said. “We will see better volume in October and November when (the state of) Sonora starts up and then that will increase again when Culiacan (Sinaloa) gets going.”
Leon said organic tomatoes have been in relative short supply this summer, resulting in higher f.o.b. prices. He theorized that some growers cut back on plantings in late spring because of the coronavirus pandemic and very hot August temperatures in California also took their toll on some tomato fields.
JC Myers of Fresh Alliance LLC, Carmel, CA, said the early August heat, with temperatures above 100 degrees in several growing districts for more than a week, also impacted California’s typically robust organic heirloom tomato crop. “Pre-heatwave organic heirlooms were shaping up to be a great bet,” Myers said, adding that currently growers “are fighting to stay in front of the color and softness… Long-term, plant stress and subsequent bloom drop will impact supplies later this month and October.”
Organic heirloom tomatoes
Speaking only of organic heirlooms from the local area, Myers said this is always a fantastic time to promote. “We have activity set up with regional retail through September and the first two weeks of October.”
He said both retail and foodservice demand have been brisk for their specialty tomatoes. “The category continues to grow at a fast clip, especially for organic heirlooms grown in quality soil, picked ripe for maximum flavor.”
Monique McLaws, marketing director, Veg-Fresh Farms
Monique McLaws of Veg-Fresh Farms, Corona, CA, agreed that the organic tomato market looks strong for the months ahead. “As the holiday season begins to kick off in September with Labor Day, we expect to see a strong demand for tomatoes of all varieties, but especially snacking tomatoes -- medleys and grape tomatoes -- as well as vibrant heirlooms that always look and taste great during the fall holiday season.”
She added that barring any weather-related events, such as the extreme heat waves and fires California has seen this past summer, organic tomato supply will be strong across the board. “Heirlooms will continue to pull from Baja and California for the foreseeable future, with good supply and quality. Organic romas have good availability out of Texas, and will start back up out of Baja in October.”