Out of Fresh Tomatoes?

Articles
February 26, 2010

As the Northeastern states get pummeled by snow yet again, the typically sunny and warm southern states – or at least that’s how we like to imagine them – are feeling the freeze as well.

As the Northeastern states get pummeled by snow yet again, the typically sunny and warm southern states – or at least that’s how we like to imagine them – are feeling the freeze as well. By now consumers, supermarkets, restaurants and of course suppliers are well aware of the mid-January freeze that devastated the Florida tomato crop. With continued cold weather in Florida, many growers are only able to pick 10 to 20 percent of their normal volume, and the total production as estimated by Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomatoes Growers Exchange is down 70 percent. Cold weather is expected to affect the crop, and push prices higher, for at least two more months, which may present a center store opportunity.
 
Many East Coast supermarket chains are now relying on imports from Mexico and China, and we can expect to see more greenhouse grown tomatoes from the EU, Canada and Mexico. Imported crops are often more expensive, picked before ripe, less fresh, contain fewer nutrients and for a variety of reasons, including growing, transport and refrigeration, have a bigger carbon footprint. This comes at the same time when consumers are more aware of COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling) and are certainly doing their best to buy more local, seasonal and domestic products across all categories in the supermarket, especially in the produce aisles.
 
Markets may still stock tomatoes to fulfill customer cravings, but for those customers who decide to skip on imports and save some cash, this is a great time to merchandise domestic canned tomatoes. Canned tomatoes can be used in a variety of recipes and are picked and packed at peak freshness. Some brands are flash steamed to lock in even more of a garden fresh taste, and all of the nutritional benefits of fresh picked tomatoes are preserved. Directing customers to the center of the store may also reignite their love for other canned veggies and encourage shoppers to read labels, not only for country of origin, but to learn just how much nutrients can fit in a can.