LEAMINGTON, Ontario — Quite a few packages of greenhouse vegetables leaving Ontario are destined for kids’ lunch boxes, marketers hope.

“We’re developing a lot of programs going into this year with retailers that gear toward kids,” said Dave Pereira, director of sales for Mor Gro Inc. “It’s especially important with kids in our own family, getting different ideas to entice kids to eat more vegetables.”

Pereira said the company is working on kids’ items in its Smart label and in private label for retailers.

“We’re looking at varieties of mini cocktail tomatoes and specialty tomatoes,” Pereira said.
Erie James Ltd. uses a cucumber character and the catch phrase “Home of the Cool Cukes” to make its baby cucumbers appeal to kids, as well as those shopping for kids.

“They’re great, they don’t need to be peeled, there are no seeds, and they’re great to put in kids’ lunches,” said Mark Slater, co-owner of Erie James.

The seedless cucumber market has probably doubled every year, Slater said. Erie James is making it a priority to do more demos and promotions at retail in the coming year.

In addition to the baby cucumber’s appeal to kids, Slater says the product is also great for the other end of the spectrum — the elderly.

“We get a lot of compliments on our baby cukes because people with seed allergies can eat them,” Slater said. “So we’re catering to kids and to the elderly.”

Mastronardi's mini tomatoes

Kingsville-based Mastronardi Produce is adding on to its packaging facility that focuses on Ready-to-Eat products, mainly for kids.

“The first items coming out of there are mini tomatoes, part of the Sunset kids’ line,” said Chris Veillon, director of marketing for Mastronardi Produce. “It’s a 3-ounce tray, fits in a lunchbox, and it’s cheaper than a chocolate bar.”

It’s basically the tomato version of celery and mini carrots, Veillon said.

The company just got started with the additions this fall, and the product is completely sold out until at least March or April, said Paul Mastronardi, president.

Munchkin Pack

Lakeside Produce also has a mini tomato product perfect for kids’ lunch boxes, called the Munchkin Pack, said Tom Coufal, salesman.

The packages are filled with either Stramato or Ruby tomatoes, both bite-sized tomatoes, as well as mini cucumbers.

“We’re trying to focus on parents by giving them a healthy snack they can feed their kids,” Coufal said. “We’re doing some trials. This is a first this year.”

In the past few years, anything bite-sized is in demand, said Joe Spano, sales manager for Mucci International Marketing Inc., Kingsville.
The company is working on a cocktail cucumber it calls Cutecumber, which launched in several test markets in 2009.

“It’s just a matter of finding the right retailer, the right program,” Spano said.