(June 18) Desert Glory Ltd., San Antonio, plans this summer to ship its first vine-ripened roma tomatoes and to introduce a new retail brand.

Bryant Ambelang, vice president of sales and marketing, said new NatureSweet Foodservice-brand romas are expected to begin shipping in mid-July, and the new Garden Ripe-brand romas are expected to be available for retail in late August.

NatureSweet Foodservice romas are expected to be shipped in 25-pound bulk cases, and Garden Ripe romas are expected to be packed in 1.1-pound clamshells, he said. Retail prices are not yet available.

The company ships NatureSweet-brand cherry and cherub tomatoes throughout the U.S., and Ambelang said the addition of romas was initially intended only for foodservice customers, many of whom had requested them. Due to retailers’ requests, it now plans to sell consumer packages, too.

“When we went to retailers, many said we want a roma-on-the-vine for retail and we can’t get enough of them,” Ambelang said. “We think it’s a big opportunity.”

Desert Glory plans to start by having about 30 greenhouse acres of roma tomatoes in production year-round in Jalisco, Mexico, Ambelang said. If the program is successful, the company can expand, he said.

The company plans to use the same traceback system on the roma tomatoes that it uses on its cherry and cherub tomatoes. Cases are marked with tomato size, day and week of packing, hour of palletization, packing line and greenhouse number, Ambelang said. Consumer packages also are marked with packing dates and growing location.

Desert Glory’s tomatoes are picked, packed and shipped on the same day, Ambelang said.

NatureSweet tomatoes are small tomatoes that are marketed for snacking, but the new Garden Ripe brand will be positioned as recipe ingredients, Ambelang said. The company might add other products to the line.

Texas shipper to offer romas-on-the-vine at retail
Desert Glory originally planned to ship its new vine-ripened roma tomatoes only in 25-pound bulk cases for foodservice. But interest from retailers led the company to also brand 1.1-pound clamshells for consumer purchase, says Bryant Ambelang, vice president of sales and marketing.