While some organic tomato options have been spotty this winter, there appear to be good supplies of organic beefsteak, on-the-vine, and grape tomatoes, offering promotional opportunities to the retail trade this spring.
Joe Eisinger, who handles organics for Nathel & Nathel on the Hunts Point Terminal Market in New York City, said he is currently sourcing organic beefsteak and TOVs (tomatoes on the vine) from Canadian greenhouse sources. “I have no supply issues from Canada, though Florida is a little snug on grape tomatoes,” he said.
Joe Eisinger, Organic Sales, Nathel & Nathel
Those three SKUs—beefsteak, TOVs, and grape tomatoes—are the varieties that most retailers focus on for their organic tomato category. Eisinger said the FOB market on his Canadian supplies is in the mid-to-low-$30s range, which does offer potential for in-store promotions. “The market has come off its highs, so there are opportunities for promotional pricing,” he said.
Michael DuPuis, who handles quality assurance and public relations for Divine Flavor from its Nogales, AZ headquarters, said the company concentrates its organic tomato efforts on its Magnifico-branded grape tomato. There is a good supply of organic grape tomatoes in the marketplace from Mexico, which has left the FOB market in a less than favorable position from a grower-shipper’s viewpoint.
Michael DuPuis, Quality Assurance and Public Relations Coordinator, Divine Flavor
“The market is saturated right now,” he said. “Organic tomatoes are a snacking item, which is very popular, and our grape tomatoes are Fair Trade Certified. What it comes down to is we try to provide our customers with high-caliber organic tomatoes on a year-round basis.”
DuPuis said the grower-shipper is currently producing Sweetelle variety organic grape tomatoes from three different high-tech greenhouse operations in Mexico. “Our goal is to provide programs of certified Fair Trade fruit all year long to our customers,” he said.
“The market has come off its highs, so there are opportunities for promotional pricing.” - Joe Eisinger
Divine Flavor markets both a pint-size and one-pound clamshell of organic grape tomatoes to most of its customers and offers a two-pound organic option to its club store retail partners.
Divine Flavor's Magnifico brand organic grape tomatoes
Alex Leon of Bernardi & Associates, also in Nogales, AZ, noted that from his perspective as a supplier of several organic tomato varieties from a variety of sources, it’s been a crazy season. “This year has been a totally different season than what is typical,” he said. “The supply situation comes and goes. It has not been consistent at all. We will have 2-3 weeks of good supplies and then a period of gaps.”
DeLeon said inconsistent supplies make it very difficult to promote because you are not sure what you will have 2-3 weeks in advance. “Weather has had a lot to do with that,” he said. “There have been some cold periods, which have stunted the growth of the plants and created gaps.”
Looking ahead, DeLeon said organic supplies from the Culiacan Valley in Sinaloa are winding down. He is looking forward to the volume shifting to Baja California. “Starting in early May, I should have good supplies of organic grape tomatoes as well as rounds and romas. We will also have organic zucchini and other vegetables.”
DeLeon said Baja will need to carry the torch for a while as he expects Central California to get a very late start on its tomato production due to the heavy spring rains and flooding in many different districts. “California is not going to start on time,” he said.