(UPDATED COVERAGE, 11:11 a.m., July 16) A leading importer of Mexican vegetables has launched a tomato category management program.


Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best International LLC has added merchandising experts and a nutritionist to its marketing staff and will publish a buyers’ guide, “Maximizing Tomato Marketing,” said Jerry Wagner, director of sales and marketing.


The company hopes to bring order to a category that often confuses retailers and their customers, Wagner said.


“We’re filling in a gap on the education end that we felt no one else was doing,” Wagner said. “There are a lot of people, from corporate on down to the store level, that really don’t understand the different types of tomatoes.”


Farmer’s Best is meeting with retailers interested in the program, Wagner said. After analyzing their tomato programs, Farmer’s Best plans to create customized versions of “Maximizing Tomato Marketing,” hopefully in time for the beginning of the Mexican season this fall, he said.


The free program is available to all retailers, whether they are current Farmer’s Best customers or not, Wagner said. But customers receive more detailed, in-depth attention.


In the past, tomato producers from California, Florida and other regions created similar category management programs, Wagner said.


But they are not as prevalent today, opening the door for an importer of Mexican product like Farmer’s Best to take the lead, he said.


The new campaign kicked off in July with e-mail newsletters, advertising campaigns, retail merchandising seminars at chain stores and other initiatives.