Published: 10/12/2012

by The Guide 2012



Top 5 Things You Need to Know

  • Taste: Tomatoes have a distinct flavor and smell. Their mild, slightly sweet taste lends itself to multiple uses.
  • Selection: Consumers should choose tomatoes that give slightly when squeezed. Avoid tomatoes with obvious bruising or soft spots.
  • Use: Tomatoes are a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw, used in salads, stuffed and used in sauces and other recipes.
  • Merchandising: Cater to consumers who are in a hurry by offering overwrapped trays of tomatoes along with bulk product.
  • Health: Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to fight cancer. Lycopene is found in higher concentrations in cooked tomatoes.


On the shelves


Tomatoes come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Increase your sales by offering different sizes and varieties. Include yellow varieties along with red ones to add some color to salads and meals. Offer large tomatoes for slicing and smaller varieties for use in salads and other dishes. Carry grape and cherry tomatoes for an easy addition to a bagged salad or as a snack.

Tomatoes are sold by type, rather than variety. Tomatoes are field, stake or pole grown and are described as mature-green, vine-ripe, plum or roma, cherry, grape, greenhouse, heirloom and hydroponic.




  • Tomatoes with the stems on make an attractive display, but be careful with those stems as they can poke other tomatoes and cause bruising. Never stack more than one layer deep. Line the display with a rubber mat to avoid the chance of bruising. Tomatoes do not need to be refrigerated when on display. Refrigeration below55 F,12.8 C, will damage tomatoes.


Consumers buy tomatoes based on the appearance of freshness and their firmness, so keep displays looking good by removing mushy or bruised fruit. That stem is more than just a pretty touch. Most of that tomato aroma comes from the stems, so keep them on as long as possible.




Make tomatoes a centerpiece of your department as they are a commodity that consumers will seek out. Group tomatoes with avocados for a display that will entice consumers looking to make Mexican dishes. The two commodities work well together because neither needs refrigeration. Place grape and cherry tomatoes near salad mixes to encourage consumers to pick up a package to complete their salad. Advise consumers not to refrigerate tomatoes because that will stop the ripening process and not allow the full flavor to come through.



Making the sale


Include grape tomatoes in vegetable trays. Cross-promote tomatoes with everything a consumer needs to make salsa or spaghetti sauce.



Offer samples of grape tomatoes to encourage consumers to think of the tiny tomatoes as a nutritious snack.


Seasonal promotions

Nothing says summer like a fresh-picked tomato. Take advantage of this association by creating a summertime theme around your tomato display. Cross-merchandise tomatoes with bacon and lettuce for a one-stop shop for BLT sandwiches, a summertime favorite.

Cinco de Mayo provides a perfect time to celebrate tomatoes because many Mexican dishes include tomatoes. Create a Mexican-themed display by including salsa fixings, avocados and taco seasonings.

Get your game face on in time for Super Bowl promotions. Include tomatoes in ads for the big day as they are used in salsa and on nachos. Grape and cherry tomatoes can also be a great addition to a vegetable dipping tray.

Include grape tomatoes in back-to-school promotions. These easy-to-eat, small tomatoes make a healthy addition to kids’ lunches.


On the plate

Peeling tomatoes isn’t easy, so make your life easier by boiling them for about 30 seconds and letting them cool. The peels can then be easily removed with a sharp knife. Another option is to plunge hot tomatoes into cold water for easy peeling.

Some recipes call for tomatoes but not their seeds. To get rid of those seeds, cut the tomato in half crosswise. Squeeze the tomato gently in the palm of your hand.

Keep tomatoes out of the refrigerator unless they are sliced. Refrigeration harms the flavor of the tomato. Tomatoes make an eye-catching shell for stuffing. Stuff them with meat or seafood salad for lunch or as a side dish for dinner.



1 lb. = about 3 to 4 medium tomatoes

1 lb. = about 1 to 1½ cups pulp


Nutrition and health

Health benefits

A diet rich in tomatoes has been shown to improve heart health. Tomatoes are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C, which has been shown to improve the immune system’s ability to fight disease and help fight cancer.


Nutrient content descriptors

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the following nutrient content descriptors for tomatoes: low-fat, saturated fat-free, sodium-free (must state that tomatoes contain less than 5 mg sodium per85 gtomato), cholesterol-free, low in calories, a good source of vitamin A and high in vitamin C.


At the register

Common PLUs

3061 - beefsteak

4063 - small, 6x6 size and smaller

4064 - large, 5x6 size and  larger

4796 - cherry, red

4797 - cherry, yellow

3146 - cherry, on the vine

3147 – cherry, yellow, on the vine

3150 – cocktail/intermediate, red

3335 – cocktail/intermediate, red, on the vine

3336 – cocktail/intermediate, plum/Italian/saladette/roma, on the vine

4798 - greenhouse/hydroponic, small

4799 - greenhouse/hyrdoponic, large

4087 - plum/Italian/saladette/roma, red

3145 – plum/Italian/saladette/roma, yellow

3282 – plum/Italian/saladette/roma, on the vine

4805 - vine-ripe, small (6x6 and smaller)

3151 - vine-ripe, large (5x6 and larger)

4778 – yellow

3148 – yellow, on the vine

4664 - on the vine

4803 – teardrop/pear

4804 – teardrop/pear, yellow


In the backroom


25-lb. cartons, loose

20-lb. flats/cartons

3-layer lugs

2-layer lugs


cherry and grape

12 1-pint baskets



10-, 20-, and 25-lb. cartons, loose


plum or roma

25-lb. cartons loose



15-lb. flats, 1-layer

7-kilo flats, 1-layer


RPC – 6409, 6411, 6413, 6416, 6419, 6420, 6423, 6425, 6426



fresh tomatoes

U.S.No. 1


U.S.No. 2

U.S.No. 3



U.S.No. 1

U.S.No. 2



  • Temperature: mature-green or pink, 62 to68 F, 16.7 to20 C
  • Relative humidity: 85-88%
  • Mist: no
  • Typical shelf life: mature-green 21 to 28 days; pink, 7 to 14 days
  • Do not refrigerate
  • Highly sensitive to freezing injury. (Likely to suffer injury by one light freezing.)
  • Susceptible to chilling injury (Damage sometimes is not apparent until produce is returned to a higher temperature. At temperatures below55 F,13 C, tomatoes are subject to chill injury and lose flavor quickly.)
  • Never stack more than two layers high, and keep product stem up to protect tomato shoulders.
  • Because most tomatoes are picked mature but not totally ripe, they will continue ripening in transit. Tomatoes produce ethylene, a hormone that stimulates ripening. If tomatoes have not reached the appropriate color by the time they reach the local distribution center, their ripening process will be speeded up.
  • Ethylene treatment applied at shipping point starts the ripening process and assures more uniformly ripe fruit upon arrival at the destination point and shortens the period between harvest and display, therefore maintaining a higher degree of vitamin C.


Fresh Trends 2012

  • Nearly 80% of consumers say they purchased tomatoes in the past 12 months, the second most popular vegetable in the survey.
  • Consumers most often use tomatoes in salad (78%) and as an ingredient in a recipe (70%).
  • Nearly 70% of consumers say they feel comfortable choosing a ripe tomato.



Pounds sold in 2011 – 1,174,141,739

Pounds sold in 2010 – 1,220,594,043


Average retail price per pound in 2011 – $2.25

Average retail price per pound in 2010 – $2.16


Retail sales in 2011 --  $2,645,893,173           Percent of total produce sales 2011 – 7.4%

Retail sales in 2010 --  $2,636,468,123           Percent of total produce sales 2010 – 7.5%


Figures do not include Wal-Mart sales.

Source: FreshLook Marketing