Mastronardi Produce’s Sunset brand tomatoes earned the Kingsville, Ontario-based company bragging rights at the third annual Hottest Tomato Competition.

Mastronardi’s Champagne cocktail tomato took top honors for Best Overall Hothouse Tomato for the second year in a row, as well as the top slot in the cocktail category. The Kumato, a brown tomato Mastronardi started shipping in April, took first in the specialty category and claimed the people’s choice award.

The Hottest Tomato Competition was part of the Leamington Tomato Festival in the past, but moved away this year to become an independent event, said Nicole Barron, fundraising chair for Relief, Education And Child Sponsorship International and organizer of the competition. The Aug. 15-16 event benefits the children’s charity.

Winners in each of the tomato competition’s categories are:

  • Mucci-Pac Hydro Produce, Kingsville, winner of the roma category;
  • Erie Shores Growers, Ruthven, Ontario, winner of the tomato-on-vine category;
  • Westmoreland Sales, Leamington, Ontario, winner of the beefsteak category; and
  • Mastronardi Produce, winner of the cocktail category, specialty category,  people’s choice award and best overall hothouse tomato

The race for the people’s choice award was a close one, with Mastronardi’s Kumato squeaking by Leamington-based Amco Produce Inc.’s specialty grape tomato by just one point to claim the top honor. Ruthven-based Clifford Produce Sales Inc.’s cocktail tomato and Mastronardi’s orange grape tomato tied for third place.

“People just seem to be drawn to the unique size and shape of tomatoes in the cocktail and specialty categories of the competition,” Barron said in a news release.

Tomatoes in each of the categories were judged anonymously based on criteria including wateriness of the fruit, firmness, texture, flavor, acidity, sweetness, color, fruit shape, cracking, gold specks and puffiness. Judges were representatives from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, H.J. Heinz, Loblaws, Agri-Food Canada, Price Chopper and Metro Supermarket, according to the release.

Attendees of the festival were able to sample the competing tomatoes. For Mastronardi, the Champagne cocktail tomato was a favorite because of its high sugar content.

“Champagne is by far the sweetest tomato out there, and it speaks for itself because people ask for it by name at the store,” said Chris Veillon, marketing manager for Mastronardi. “Ten years ago, a tomato was just a tomato.”

Proceeds from the event benefit REACH, a Canadian child sponsorship charity that provides funds to educate children in Uganda. Last year’s Hottest Tomato Competition raised enough to fund the charity’s operating expenses as well as to sponsor an additional 20 children for the year, according to the REACH news release.

Correction Note: The original article incorrectly connected the Hottest Tomato Competition with the Leamington Tomato Festival, which took place Aug. 12-16.

Specialty tomatoes earn Mastronardi Produce four awards

Courtesy Mastronardi Produce

Kingsville, Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce's Champagne Cocktail and Kumato tomatoes earned two awards each at the Leamington Tomato Festival Aug. 12-16.