Branded tomato variety earns a following

12/11/2013 05:00:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Styers says he likes the punnits because they act like a billboard and provide space to tell the Tasti-Lee story.

Bejo also has a quick-response code printed on the punnits so consumers can scan it with their smart phone and be taken to the Tasti-Lee website. As part of the company’s marketing efforts, it also has a strong social media campaign that includes the Tasti-Lee Facebook page.

More recently, Bejo has entered into arrangements with Kroger and Safeway Inc., to name a few retail chains.

Each time Styers and his group make a presentation in front of retailers, he says it includes a show and tell where they cut fruit and compare their variety with conventional tomatoes.

Showing the fruit side by side really drives home the points, he says. “We’ve learned if we just call on the retailers and talk about the tomato, it’s not as effective as being there and demonstrating the product,” he says.

 

Variety needs TLC

Unlike greenhouse production, open-field production carries significantly more risks.

“The challenges that we face are both cultural and environmental, Styers says. “As a group we’ve learned how to best manage the Tasti-Lee growing process to maintain consistency, color, and flavor.”

Even a small change, such as switching from granular to liquid fertilizer, can affect fruit flavor and quality.

Harvesting and packing also proved to be a learning experience, and crews have had to buy into the program, Martinez says.

“One of the most important practices is handling, and you have to have a crew that will handle the tomato correctly,” he says. “It’s become a marriage with our crew.”

Instead of using picking buckets like those used by growers of mature greens, Martinez’s crew uses two layer totes. The first row of fruit is placed shoulders up. The second layer is placed shoulders down.

Even though the fruit is firm when picked red, the two-layer pattern helps retain quality, Styers says.

Martinez says he’s also learned that Tasti-Lee doesn’t like drastic changes. So he’s careful about temperature fluctuations between the field, packinghouse and storage.

And whatever he does, Martinez says he never stores the fruit below 55 degrees since that will reduce volatiles and associated flavor.



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