The variety of colors and shapes of heirlooms immediately attracts the eye, says Charlie Eagle, vice president of business development for Southern Specialties Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla.

“You can create a display that makes the heirloom tomatoes the bull’s eye in the middle of the tomato category.”

He also suggests cross merchandising heirlooms with mozzarella cheese, basil and olive oil, and he recommends putting a basketful of heirlooms in the meat or seafood department.

The popularity of heirloom tomatoes is based on their two main characteristics — the array of colors and the unique flavor profiles, says Jenna Feest, writer for Specialty Produce, San Diego. 

“I think it is helpful to talk up the individual tomato’s uniqueness to set it apart from other varieties, as well as offering examples of how to utilize the tomato and showcase its flavor, color, etc.,” she says.

For example, “The balanced, salty flavor of the black krim makes for an exceptional bloody Mary.”

Jim Durst, partner with his wife Deborah in Durst Organic growers Inc., Esparto, Calif., recommends large displays of heirlooms.

“If your display makes it look like they’re scarce or there’s something wrong with them, people will walk right by them,” he explains. “But if they exude abundance and health, you’d be surprised, people will buy more than you would ever anticipate.”

Break up the conventional red tomatoes with colored heirlooms or other related items like basil, garlic or avocados, an e-book suggests about tomatoes from Veg-Fresh Farms LLC, Corona, Calif.

Also, to avoiding bruising, don’t stack tomatoes more than two to four layers high, and place tomatoes on cushioning material to minimize damage. Finally, dumping from one container or retail bin to another also can cause bruising.

(this story appeared in the July 2017 issue of Produce Retailer magazine)      

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