For Richmond, VA-based Magic Sun Farms, a hydroponic tomato grower with growing operations in Mexico, grape tomatoes and other snacking varieties seem to be taking the lead in growth in the category, and the grower is looking to expand production on grape tomatoes and cocktails. Magic Sun also grows beefsteak tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine (TOVs), and bell peppers.
“Supplies of beefsteak and TOVs are similar to last year at this time - there've been some ups and downs with cold weather and darker days slowing tomato volume slightly compared to last year, but, overall, it’s nothing unexpected and we’re able to supply tomatoes and increase our total volume significantly with the addition of bell peppers this year,” says Tommy Tran of Magic Sun.
The winter push
Meanwhile, demand for tomatoes is consistent. “We’ve seen good demand and we’re moving a lot more tomatoes with the winter and holiday season coming up,” Tran says. “Overall, if anything, demand for tomatoes is slowly increasing, with grape tomatoes taking the lead - there’s a big market for grape tomatoes.”
While grape tomatoes have helped grow the category, particularly as a snack choice, Tran says that pre-packaged salads and salad kits are also a growing option for grape tomatoes. “They’re increasing in popularity and we’re finding a lot of clients are looking for products that can sit in their kits,” he says.
As for pricing on tomatoes, Tran notes an expected pre-Thanksgiving rush boosted the market and overall prices are higher than last year.