"New for spring 2010 will be the 'Kumato' grape tomato," said Chris Veillon, marketing manager for Mastronardi Produce Ltd., headquartered in Leamington, ON. "It has the same characteristics as the regular 'Kumato' only in grape format, and it's even sweeter. We are also launching our new ready- to-eat facility that will prewash all of our new 'Sunset Kidz MiMi' candy tomatoes. The price point will be less than a chocolate bar, likely 99 cents a pack. Each pack is three ounces. As all items will be prewashed, mom can pick these up off the shelf in the grocery store and then put the pack in her kid's lunch pail for school."
Mastronardi Produce's "Kumato" tomato was launched in April 2009. Mr. Veillon said that it has taken off like wildfire, and demand has by far exceeded production. The company has increased its acreage heading into its Canadian production, which will begin in April.
"Our organic offerings continue to be the most extensive in the industry," said Mr. Veillon. "A complete listing of our organic offerings is available on our web site, www.sunsetproduce.com."
Mr. Veillon said that the company's new facility in Salinas, CA, was opened last year, and it is servicing the West. Mastronardi works with the top 25 retailers in North America.
In tune with the economy and how consumers are watching their food dollars, Mastronardi is constantly looking for innovative and affordable products for customers to enjoy. It tests over 200 varieties of tomatoes each year in search of the next "Campari," one of the company's more successful tomato items. "The demand for greenhouse-grown produce has certainly increased due to the consistency in the produce that we grow," said Mr. Veillon. "As [one of the larger] greenhouse marketers in North America, with an emphasis on specialty items, we know that customers are looking for consistency in their products. Greenhouse-grown produce is the most consistent produce there is from a size, quality and flavor perspective."
With consumer interest in the genetic modification of fruits and vegetables continuing to mount, Mastronardi Produce-Sunset recently received its Certificate of Compliance for the Non-GMO Project Verification program. "The non-GMO project is a standardized program that is based on third- party verification for products following best practices for [genetically modified organism] avoidance," Mr. Veillon explained. "The program has been initiated by the North American organic and natural products industry for companies that want to offer their customers a verified non-GMO choice."
The company will be releasing new packaging and labels later this year that will display a non-GMO seal. This seal signifies that products have been produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance, including all required testing.
In a press release issued by Mastronardi Produce Feb. 1, Paul Mastronardi, president of the company, said, "We are proud of the fact that our gourmet greenhouse produce is now verified non-GMO. All of our products are from plant hybrids that reproduce the old-fashioned way -- by natural plant breeding."
Mr. Veillon said that construction continues on the company's new 20,000- square-foot ready-to-eat facility that is attached to its Kingsville, ON, facility.
"This facility has begun packing our 'Sunset Kidz MiMi' line," he said. "We are also in stage one of a four-phase new greenhouse construction project located near Sarnia, Ontario. Phase one is 23 acres exclusively for peppers. Mastronardi will be the first to pick Canadian-grown greenhouse peppers starting the week of Feb. 15. This is one of the first carbon-negative greenhouses in Canada. The greenhouse uses the waste heat and CO2 from an adjacent industrial facility to heat the greenhouse."
Phase two will begin construction this summer, encompassing another 20 acres. Phases three and four will begin over the next two years.