Tomato source

Contrary to what my last two posts might suggest, I did actually come to Bundaberg for a vaguely agricultural reason (you believe me, don’t you?)

Bundy is home to Camilla Philip, a 2006 Nuffield Scholar who, along with her husband Andrew, are the tomato-growing king and queen of Australia.

The Philips are the largest growers of tomatoes in the country, and are the main suppliers to the two main supermarkets – Coles and Woolworths. Not only do they produce thousands of tonnes of cherry, grape (plum, to us UK folk) and regular tomatoes on their farms, they also work with producers across the country to ensure a nation-wide supply chain and guaranteed supplies for the retailers.

tomatoes

Even from just spending a few hours with Camilla, it’s obvious she’s incredibly entrepreneurial. Operating under the family business, SP Exports, she and her husband have expanded the company, branched out into other high-premium crops such as kiwis and custard apples are looking at developing new breeds and lines from their core produce, such as tomato sauces and salsas.

What was interesting was there is no growers group, extension work and very little research done in the field of tomato-growing, so Camilla and Andrew have had to work on a trial-and-error basis to see what works and what doesn’t. And despite having done lots of research themselves, they are happy to share that with any other growers who come visiting.

One of the breeds the Philips have dabbled in is a rather funky ‘no mess’ tomato, which they promote as the perfect sandwich tomato because the moisture is locked in the fruits’ flesh, and not in the watery bit around the seeds, so your sarnies don’t go soggy.

Camilla negotiated with the retailers to ensure SP Exports kept ownership of the product and the branding rights in Australia, and as a result have been able to set their own pack prices to make sure their costs of production are covered.

no mess tomatoes
Smaller tomato producers couldn’t hope to ketchup with the Philips (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), but they could certainly look to them to learn about supplier relationships, branding and marketing.

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