Issue Spring 11
When it comes to its process, Mastronardi is consistently green, but the products it produces come in a variety of colors such as orange, red, yellow and brown. When it comes to taste, its products are even more diverse. “Mastronardi really created the strategy of branding tomatoes,” says Paul Mastronardi, president of the family-owned business. “No one was branding and putting flavor into tomatoes.
Other companies focused on shelf life and making things big, big, big. But we focused on growing consistently flavorful, new unique varieties.”
Mastronardi has been in the produce industry since 1954. Bert Mastronardi pioneered the first commercial greenhouse in North America after being introduced to the technology while visiting Holland. He brought the knowledge back to Canada to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce. The company since has dropped the lettuce and focused on the flavor and wide variety of its other three products within a greenhouse environment.
Mastronardi is known for industry favorites like Campari® tomatoes that are sold under the SUNSET® label. Campari® tomatoes are grown using a European seed variety know for its balance of sweetness and acidity that make it perfect for kitchen recipes from homemade sauces to hand-tossed salads. Also, SUNSET® Splendido tomatoes have gained success through its small grape-tomato with a blocky shape that packs big, sweet flavor.
Mastronardi travels the world looking for new seed varieties. He says the company aims to continue launching two or three new products each year. In 2009, Mastronardi introduced its famous Kumato™ tomato. This distinct brown sweet tomato ranges in colors from golden green to a reddish brown color when it’s ripe and ready to eat. Its unique smoky taste and health benefits have charmed the taste buds of Martha Steward and Mehmet Oz – better known as television’s “Dr. Oz.” The personalities featured the tomato on their daytime radio and talk shows. It was also featured by MSN as one of the most unique new items of 2010.
Similar in popularity but distinct in taste is the seriously sweet Zima™ tomato. Orange and yellow varieties are typically infamous for their bland flavor, but the sweetness of this orange grape-tomato variety combined with its unique snack ready packaging was so well-received that Mastronardi sold out of its Zima™ tomatoes grown last year. The company’s One Sweet™ bite-sized, candy-red tomato also continues to do well on retail shelves.
“We launched Zima™ in October and have since sold out of the product,” Mastronardi says. “We’ve also sold out of our Kumato™ and One Sweet™ tomato products so that shows their popularity right there. At this point we are chasing the demand.”
The company’s demand includes retailers all across North America. Mastronardi Produce has seven distribution centers spread across Canada, the United States and Mexico. “Not one weather pattern can affect us,” Mastronardi told Food and Drink in 2009. “The specialty products are what set us apart from the competition, but we carry a full line 12 months a year.”
The company sources from growers throughout North America and from Nicaragua and Costa Rica. However it continues to market 1,600 acres of greenhouse production. Mastronardi explains that while the upfront cost of growing from a greenhouse rather than a traditional field is higher, the investment pays back dividends.
Greenhouses can yield eight to 10 times more crop than a field crop while using less water and fertilizer. Eight years ago, Mastronardi began using biodegradable, organic cocoa peat as its growing medium when one of its head growers founded the concept. Using this technique, Mastronardi says their SUNSET® products are free from pesticides, herbicides and protected from acid rain or runoff from neighboring farms. The controlled environment also allows for consistent flavor, color and size.
Mastronardi says each phase of production is environmentally-friendly. The company promotes and lives by its three-phases within The Green Grass Project™, which starts with growing and ends at distribution.
- Growing – Products are grown using organic/bio-degradable waste coconut husks, and recycled water and fertilizer. Integration of bugs such as ladybugs eliminates pesticides.
- Packaging – Products are packed in bleach-free recycled boxes. Recycled pop bottles and “corntainers”– a container made from corn – are used to make clamshell packaging.
- Distribution – Since 1999, Mastronardi has used skylights and energy efficient lighting in its warehouses.
Mastronardi was recognized by Toyota in 2001 for its elimination of all propane forklifts in its warehouses, and just last year the company completed construction of North America’s first commercially certified carbon-negative greenhouse facility.
Additionally, in 2010, Deloitte LLP named Mastronardi one of Canada’s 50 best-managed companies.