Even though the pandemic has interrupted normal routines, snacking items continue to see good demand with retailers. Westmoreland Topline Farms launched their Huge Cruncher cucumbers in 2019, and have seen good demand for this snacking cucumber, as well as for their sanZano tomato.
Mini snacking cucumbers
Joseph Talbourdet of Topline says: “We have seen incredible growth in the snacking tomato segment, and we feel that the snacking mini cucumber segment has plenty of room for growth. We have several retailers taking product on a weekly basis as the consumer is looking for another snacking product from the fresh produce section.”
The Huge Crunchers are grown in greenhouses using LED light technology. “We currently grow them in one of our mini cucumber ranges and are very excited about the product growing under lights. This is a more labor-intensive product but retailers, and in turn their consumers, are very excited about the great taste and snackability of this new product,” Talbourdet says.
The Huge Cruncher had been in trials for several crops prior to prior to the brand launch just before the 2019 PMA. Since then, the Huge Cruncher has been featured very prominently in the company’s social media. “We were looking forward to another push at the 2020 CPMA but we have had to move to digital only marketing with all the tradeshow cancellations,” Talbourdet shares.
Long Roma tomato now with new packaging options
Another of the company’s products is called the “sanZano tomato,” which is a long Roma tomato. Talbourdet says: “This product has been a large Canadian retailer favorite for several seasons. We have expanded the total crop size for 2020 and are experiencing steady weekly growth with this item.”
Topline has introduced a new 1-lb bag option for the sanZano tomato. “This new option is designed to be another ‘grab and go’ item, to help busy consumers get their weekly grocery shopping completed faster,” says Talbourdet.
The company has also recently introduced an organic Roma tomato, and have seen great success with it so far. Talbourdet says: “Westmoreland has seen a strong increase in the demand for organic greenhouse grown products. This isn’t only with established retailers, but with new retailers as well. The organic Roma tomato has been very successful, and we look forward to increasing the acreage on it next season.”
COVID-19 pandemic challenges
The biggest concern for Westmoreland during the pandemic has been ensuring the safety of their staff. Talbourdet explains: “Keeping our warehouse staff safe and protected according to all the new regulations and recommendations that came from the government due to the pandemic was a major challenge for us. This has included very intense retraining on sanitation requirements, the use of a mask and a full-face shield while working in the warehouse, as well as the implementation of staggered breaks to maintain social distancing.”
The temporary loss of the foodservice commodities was also challenging for Westmoreland. “Some sales completely collapsed, forcing us to stop packing at the farm level. But we are seeing it very slowly return to a new normal. More and more restaurants have moved into a curbside pick-up business model, and the slow phased re-opening of the economy will also see more restaurants open with a slow return to normal,” Talbourdet concludes.