As the birthplace of ketchup and one of its most voracious per-capita consumers, America is sometimes unfairly tarred as déclassé in its cuisine choices. But it is fair to say that U.S. households are world leaders in consuming processed tomatoes through their affinity for ketchup—as well as salsa, soup, sauces, juice and other tomato products. About three of four tomatoes eaten here are processed rather than fresh, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In contrast, while worldwide tomato consumption is rising, and production has tripled in the past 30 years, just 2 in 10 tomatoes are currently processed. This versatile fruit is a staple food and ingredient in many cultures.
This means the global processed tomato market clearly holds growth potential. This is especially true in the relatively mature U.S. processed tomato market, where sales (according to AC Nielsen) were flat in 2014. Producers and brand owners who infuse innovation into their processed tomato products could revive the interest of consumers seeking variety or novelty in their cuisine.
Consumer Trends Affect The Processed Tomato Market
To inform and guide that much-needed innovation, market watchers should consider these modern consumer trends, which are driving increasing demand for processed tomatoes at home and abroad. Today’s consumers:
- Have less time on their hands and are expecting more from their products and stores. Fully realized meals prepared with tomato products, ranging from pre-sauced pastas to hearty soups, are one solution.
- Are incredibly busy and looking for products that simplify their lives and increase free time. These shoppers appreciate partially prepared products that go beyond traditional pasta sauce. Making meals in a semi-homemade fashion, cooks are choosing tomato-based simmer sauces, which they can combine with fresh meat and vegetables. A hot category that offers solutions to this segment, it now includes gumbo and cioppino bases to augment seafood.
- Are increasingly mobile and cosmopolitan, seeking products that deliver new experiences, variety and choice. These consumers want to broaden their culinary horizons—to India, for example, whose popular “butter chicken” recipe is made with a tomato-cream sauce; or to Morocco, whose harira is a tomato, lentil and chickpea soup.
- Are more concerned about health and well-being, hunting for natural and nutritious products. This audience appreciates that a range of research studies suggests lycopene-rich tomatoes are a cancer-fighting food.
- Want products that are safe and secure, and that provide transparency on where and how they were made. These consumers value tomato products bearing on-pack messaging that tells the tale of the fruit’s journey from farm to carton.
- Enjoy shopping experiences that offer engagement with the products they buy through online and in-store activities. Tomato products that come with culinary tips and recipes—delivered with on-carton text or via QR codes—could satisfy the desire to connect.
Packaging Plays A Role, Too
We know that a packaging shift can pay big dividends through differentiation, as when broth makers moved from using almost exclusively cans to now packaging more than 70 percent of their products in recloseable cartons. The move drove a wave of flavor and formula innovations and grew the category by 14 percent in terms of dollar sales between 2009-2013.
Reevaluating the use of heavier packaging offers tremendous supply chain advantages and improves environmental impact performance.
As the world’s appetite for tomatoes grows, U.S. tomato processors can innovate for growth with diversified formulations in consumer-friendly sizes that are smartly packaged for maximum appeal.
About the author
Eliseo Barcas, vice president of marketing and sales, Tetra Pak, U.S., is an experienced professional with extensive expertise in understanding and maximizing market trends and supporting customers through strategic portfolio deployment. For more than two decades, he has collaborated with customers and served as a leader in sales and marketing teams in Europe, North America and South America, focusing on fast-moving consumer goods and business-to-business sectors. He currently leads commercial and marketing efforts for Tetra Pak U.S., including defining strategy for the shelf-stable carton portfolio and directing its successful execution.