In a departure from its typical cooperative activity, the California Tomato Farmers co-op has teamed with Subway on a promotion in all 3,000 of the food chain’s California stores to highlight locally grown tomatoes during the summer months of July, August and September.
“And depending upon supply, we are hoping that the promotion moves into October as well,” said Ed Beckman, chief executive officer of CTF, which represents about 85 percent of California’s field-grown tomatoes.
Mr. Beckman said that CTF and Subway have been in discussions about this promotion for quite some time in an effort to marry the two groups’ “like goals” into a successful tomato promotion. He said that the food safety and sustainability programs of the CTF member farms mirror the sustainability efforts at Subway. “Because of the food-safety practices we employ, including [U.S. Department of Agriculture] audits and the commitment to the environment that our members have, this promotion was a natural [fit],” he said.
Specifically, Subway is touting the CTF tomatoes it is exclusively using in all its California stores as locally grown. There is messaging about CTF and its farm members in each store and on the Subway web site. While the promotion is limited to California stores because of the locally grown angle, Mr. Beckman said that at this time of year, Subway is buying California tomatoes for distribution to its stores located throughout the United States.
However, he believes that this promotion is helping CTF members increase their market share in the quick-serve restaurant arena and that it is also increasing the sale of fresh tomatoes for the time period involved. While each CTF member does include a CTF mark on its cartons of tomatoes, Mr. Beckman said that each member markets its tomatoes separately under its own labels. For this program, he said that Subway’s procurement specialists are dealing with the members individually to meet the chain’s tomato needs.
Mr. Beckman said that CTF will continue these types of promotional programs, “and we are already in discussions with other QSR chains to develop partnerships with our members.”
But he reiterated that CTF is not planning on marketing its crop cooperatively or establishing a single brand. He said that CTF’s goal is to work cooperatively to produce the finest-quality tomatoes and make sure each member adheres to the highest quality and food-safety standards in growing, picking and shipping those tomatoes.