Tomatoes are certainly one of the most popular year-round produce items on the market. One of the keys to retail success with tomatoes is to understand the best methods for handling, storing and displaying this popular food. Here are a few tips and suggestions for taking the best care with this very delicate fruit.

Storage: By far the most important aspect in storage is temperature. Never store your tomatoes below 55° Fahrenheit. Storing tomatoes at anything below 55° will typically result in disaster. A tomato produces a flavor enzyme as it ripens; as soon as the body temperature goes below 55° the enzyme stops producing any more flavor permanently. Even worse, the longer you keep your tomato in the cold, the flavor that has already developed will degrade until it is brought up to a reasonable temperature. Additionally, when you store a tomato at a cold temperature, you run the risk of having the water inside the tomato expand, a situation that causes individual cells within the tomato to burst. This leaves you with a tomato that may look fine to the naked eye, but will taste mealy when you bite into it.

Display: Displaying tomatoes presents a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, a gorgeous full display is always appealing. On the other hand, too many layers of tomatoes stacked on top of one another can also result in serious damage to the fruit. To get a nice full look with your tomato display it’s important to use display props that will create a false bottom, so that much of the display relies on the infrastructure that you build rather than on the product itself. Even if your preference is a “high profile stacked” look, this is still very achievable with tomatoes. You simply must design and build the display in such a way that it is the display, and not the fruit, that bears the weight of the stack. For years there has been a debate as to which method of display is best for tomatoes - stem side down or stem side up. Unfortunately, just about any way you lay out tomatoes they are fairly prone to bruising simply because of the customer handling that they go through. Most experts agree however, that while the stem side down look has a greater aesthetic appeal, stem side up is probably easier on the fruit. This one is really too close to call. Whichever direction you go, just be sure to be consistent. What has very little aesthetic appeal is a combination look where some tomatoes are turned in both directions. If your display remains neat and tight, stem side up or stem side down will matter very little in terms of their appeal.

Merchandising: Because tomatoes are so popular they become a key item in your overall merchandising strategy, helping to increase the sales of other items. Any product that is displayed next to tomatoes must be well thought out, particularly when your tomatoes are being featured. One of my favorite merchandising sets involving tomatoes is the combination of avocados, lemons and tomatoes. The color combination is stunning and of course, you are politely screaming to the customer “make guacamole”! Click Here or on the image below to download a nice guacamole sign.

Other nice combinations include the trio of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions, as well as tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil. Just keep in mind that whatever you display with your tomatoes becomes a critical item in your produce set.

Good luck with your tomato sales!