The US tomato market is $4 billion today, and 30% of that, or approximately $1.2 billion, is small tomatoes. Small tomatoes are Mom’s preferred size. Research by the NatureSweet Cherub brand shows that moms would prefer 50-60% of their tomatoes to be small, implying a $2 billion market, and room for growth. And, this market has experienced rapid expansion-- just 10 years ago, the small tomato business was only $400 million.
For NatureSweet’s Cherub brand, their success was the result of building a brand to target Ana, a busy mom of three children, including a toddler. Cherub tomatoes are bite-size and extremely sweet, packaged in convenient, re-sealable containers to preserve flavor and freshness.
In June 2012, NatureSweet Cherub brand won a Nielsen company Gold Breakthrough Innovation award for creating a business that, on a sustainable basis, has between $100-$200 million in sales. In fact, according to CEO Bryant Ambelang, the Nature’s Cherub business is significantly larger when taking into account the club channel.
The company’s business strategy was to establish a brand in produce, a category that had not had experienced much branding effort in the past. Ambelang illuminates the NatureSweet’s four fundamental branding and business issues that the company solved on the way to building its Cherub brand:
- NatureSweet Cherub has made the commitment to being the best-tasting product, so the product must be consistent throughout the seasons. We achieve this through highly-skilled employees, greenhouse investment, water and irrigation strategies.
- NatureSweet Cherub tomatoes must always be available, unlike other produce brands that are available just three to six months of the year. Other produce brands are available year-round but they have inconsistent taste and flavor delivery because they are sourced from many different growers and countries
- NatureSweet pricing does not vary by season; it’s always the same. Price communicates value to the consumer, and NatureSweet is established as a premium-priced product. It’s not just any field-grown grape tomato, but a much better tasting product. Premium pricing is important to the brand.
- NatureSweet’s production system allows for changes in demand. NatureSweet does this with a vertically integrated and flexible production system.
Ambelang went on to describe the target consumer for NatureSweet Cherubs:
“We have a name for the only person who matters. It’s Ana. Ana is the person who buys the product. She is a mom of three kids and is between ages 25-45. She is really concerned about what her kids and family eat. And she experiences emotional stress when she has to throw away produce. All of our associates know who Ana is, and have seen her picture. It’s important for the brand that they connect to our customers in a really tangible way.”
NatureSweet research shows that 67% of moms use tomatoes on salads, and small tomatoes are better for salads. In our research for Tuning Into Mom, moms emphasized the importance of the family dinner for feeding their children the right nutrition. In fact, 43% of moms report that they are eating or serving more fruits and vegetables this year than previous years (49% reported serving the same amount). Moms would view adding sweet tomatoes to a salad as a helpful way to encourage a child to eat more vegetables.
Where is NatureSweet headed in the future? Ambelang reveals that the brand’s big new frontier is “to conveniently bring high flavor tomatoes for Ana to the lunch occasion.”
It’s clear that the NatureSweet brand will continue to grow by meeting mom’s demand, along with the company’s innovative business strategies.