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Children a priority at Mastronardi Produce Ltd.

Mastronardi Produce Ltd., headquartered in Kingsville, ON, is keenly aware of the importance of providing all market sectors — including young children — with top-quality, nutritious fresh produce. And the company’s long history shows it is a pioneer and industry leader in the gourmet greenhouse industry.

Inside a greenhouse at Mastronardi Produce Ltd. are (back) Marne Safrance, Don Mastronardi, Paul Mastronardi, and Paul’s children (front) Milla and Annika. (Photo courtesy of Mastronardi Produce Ltd.)

“Mastronardi Produce built the first commercial greenhouse in North America in the 1940s and has been family-owned for four generations,” Marketing Coordinator Nancy Pickersgill told The Produce News July 17. “Mastronardi Produce-Sunset consistently provides year-round growing of gourmet tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, as well as seasonal production of eggplant, lettuce and berries. Family-owned and employee-managed for more than 50 years, this company is built on passionate people focused on growing flavorful varieties.”

The company’s production specifically geared toward children is its fastest-growing business segment. Under its trademarked “Sunset” brand, a host of healthy options are available. “The Sunset Kidz program was an innovative idea that President Paul Mastronardi came up with, intuitively understanding there was such an opportunity in the marketplace,” Ms. Pickersgill said. “Having children of his own, he is an advocate for healthy eating and wanted to promote this not only to his kids but all children.”

The Sunset Kidz line continues to be expanded and currently includes Sunset MiMi Candy cucumbers and Sunset MiMi Candy peppers. “The Sunset MiMi Candy tomatoes are bite-sized and super sweet,” Ms. Pickersgill stated. “They make fast, healthy finger food, are convenient for lunches or snacks, and kids love them. The ‘wow’ taste keeps kids coming back.”

Mastronardi Produce promotes its healthy product with creative packaging. “The unique innovative packaging will draw them in,” Ms. Pickersgill said. “There are four Sunset Kidz on the label: Alex, Mila, Anni and Nikko — as well as Sammy, the monkey — on all packs, encouraging kids to collect all four. We also offer snack-size varieties of grape tomatoes, mini cucumbers and even a sweet snacking pepper.”

Value-added product gives children a chance to buy a healthy snack at school. Ms. Pickersgill said that Sunset MiMi Candy tomatoes are packed in a rigid frame that protects the product, making it easy to include them in children’s school lunches. “The unique tear-away film allows kids to easily open the ready-to-eat tomatoes, and the sturdy clamshell acts as a snack bowl with an hourglass shape that fits nicely into small hands,” she noted.

Convenience can even extend to vending machines. “The idea behind this convenient, ready-to-eat three-ounce pack for kids has always been that the price point be the same as a chocolate bar — under $1 per pack — with the possibility of being available in vending machines as well,” she said. “We had a vending machine prototype decorated in a Sunset MiMi Kidz theme that created a fantastic buzz at tradeshows with retailers, consumers and school-board representatives.”

According to Ms. Pickersgill, marketplace feedback for the children’s tomatoes has been positive. “The uniqueness of the packing, combined with the fact that these tomatoes are ready-to-eat, makes this effortless, healthy snack option perfect,” she said. “Moms love the convenience, and kids love the candy-like taste. Retailers love the sales.”

The increasing emphasis schools have placed on health means children are eating more fresh produce. Vending machines containing sugary snacks have been replaced with healthy salad bars. “[Children] are still provided with a quick and easy snack option that gives them more energy, eliminating the sugar rush, sluggishness and obesity often associated with product from these vending machines,” she said.

Mastronardi Produce-Sunset was recently presented with an award from a Canadian school acknowledging its contributions to making healthy snacks available to students.