March 6, 2013

Oceanside Pole tomatoes to return to peak volumes

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — West Coast Tomato Growers, owners of the popular Oceanside Pole tomato brand, are ramping volumes up to historic heights.

Looking ahead to its second season marketing these premium tomatoes, The Oppenheimer Group estimates that volume could jump to roughly 4.5 million cases between July and November.

This move elevates West Coast Tomato Growers back to its dominant position as the foremost Western U.S. vine-ripe tomato producer, with added volume to accommodate demand for the preferred Oceanside Pole tomato brand.

“The added acreage is well-timed strategically,” said Aaron Quon, director of Oppy’s greenhouse and vegetable categories, pointing to the potential strength of a domestic program that is competitively priced alongside Mexican tomatoes due to changes in the tomato suspension agreement. “It also represents a terrific opportunity for more retailers to list the high quality tomatoes Oceanside is known for.”

The added volume will be driven not only by dedicated acreage, but also by greater yield made possible by a return to the original Oceanside Pole seed variety.

“Grower Harry Singh Jr. will once again plant the old signature seed varieties that made Oceanside Pole vine-ripe tomatoes one of the best labels in the industry,” Quon said, explaining that different varieties were planted last year, and while they yielded excellent tomatoes, they did not consistently meet Mr. Singh’s exacting standards.

“The original seed will enhance overall yield, quality, and flavor, and, importantly, shelf-life, which will be second-to-none,” he said. “Retailers located across the country can choose Oceanside with confidence.”

In addition, Oceanside Pole fans can look forward not only to Mr. Singh’s legendary vine-ripened tomatoes, but also to Roma tomatoes grown with the same expertise in the same ideal coastal environment.

“Customers will be able to load rounds and Romas on the same truck, improving shipping efficiency,” Quon said.

These changes are part of a broader strategy to fine-tune the quality and add value to product that is already recognized among the best, he continued, noting that operational changes are being implemented as well.

“We will have a forced-air pre-cooling system in place in Oceanside this season,” Quon said. “By bringing just-harvested tomatoes into this chamber and reducing their temperature gradually, we can enhance quality and lengthen shelf life.”

In addition, a new general manager, Victor Lopez, has been hired to provide additional oversight to the packing and shipping process. Lopez comes to Oceanside with a dozen years of related experience, as well as a bachelor’s degree in AgriBusiness from Cal Poly and a master’s degree in international business from San Diego University.

Tomatoes grown in Oceanside enjoy the benefits of the warm coastal mountainous microclimate, along with the pole technology used to produce them, which keeps the tomatoes off the ground and in pristine condition, lending to greater flavor and shelf life. Beneath the poles, mulch conserves moisture and prevents weeds, and drip irrigation is used to optimize moisture control. Enhanced air circulation enables the tomatoes to mature evenly.

After harvest, the tomatoes are sorted by color and place-packed by hand on the same day. The season extends from late July through November.

Oppy also markets conventional greenhouse tomatoes from the U.S., Canada and Mexico and organic greenhouse tomatoes grown in Canada and Mexico.

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