Consumers and Retailers Send Words of Support for the UglyRipe(TM) to USDA: Taste Trumps Beauty



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WASHINGTON, Sept 19, 2006 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The overwhelming majority of comments submitted to the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) support the department's proposed rule change to grant a partial exemption to the Minimum Grade Requirements for the UglyRipe(TM) tomato, a perennial consumer favorite.
The UglyRipe tomato is an heirloom beefsteak variety tomato developed over decades with over $3 million in research funding by Procacci Brothers Sales Corporation. While consumers love the flavor of the variety, its characteristic ridges and crevices prevent it from meeting the shape standards of a typical Florida Round variety.
The Florida Tomato Committee (FTC), a group of competing growers sanctioned by federal law dating to the 1950's that sets all size and shape standards for tomatoes entering the U.S. market from mid-October to mid-June claimed the UglyRipe was too misshapen and would damage the reputation of the Florida marketplace.
As evidenced by many letters of support submitted to USDA, winter is the time when a good tasting tomato is most elusive to Americans. Many who submitted comments were frustrated that the FTC prioritizes aesthetics over taste, and prevents its availability to Americans year-round on those grounds.
Of the 87 comments posted on the USDA website, only nine opposed the rule change. Those comments were submitted entirely by competing growers or bureaucrats arguing technicalities, which company officials view as a thinly veiled attempt to stifle the free market demand for an innovative and superior-tasting product.
"I have been selling tomatoes since 1948 and often heard complaints from consumers about 'tasteless tomatoes.' So we delegated our Research and Development department to concentrate on developing a tasteful tomato," said Joe Procacci, CEO, Procacci Brothers Sales Corporation. "The outpouring of support that the UglyRipe has received really validates all the hard work and years we spent developing it. I hope the USDA considers the wishes of consumers as it comes to a final decision and look forward to a final rule that will make the UglyRipe available to all tomato-lovers year-round."
Following are select comments from the 77 consumers and retailers in support of the USDA proposed rule change that would exempt the UglyRipe from the FTC shape standard.
-- "My family would like to see the UglyRipe in our stores in Illinois,
and everywhere for that matter. It is clearly the best tomato growers
have to offer. So why not let it compete in this free market we have
established?"



-- "I would think that increasing vegetable consumption is something the
USDA is very invested in. So why ... impede this?"



-- "We feel it is a tremendous shame that the Florida Tomato Committee is
preventing consumers nationwide from enjoying a tomato with a
homegrown taste."



-- "Sales for the UglyRipe tomato in particular have been very strong.
Our customers are looking for that specific tomato and wish to
purchase it year-round."



-- "They (UglyRipes) are the best tomato I have ever tasted in my life
(and I am over 70)."



-- "I have finally found something that my hard to please father in law
will eat ... During Ohio winters, all we have to look forward to is
snow, ice, potholes, and UglyRipes, so please don't take away the one
great thing we have to look forward to!"



-- "This tomato is AWESOME! It is better than any other type...They are
so good you can just cut them, salt them, and eat them plain. I was
even known to eat them like apples. So please ... please let Uglies
back on the market. We love them and miss them. No other tomato comes
close to being as incredibly celestial as these round orbs of heaven."



-- "When I found UglyRipe(s) I was delighted. These tomatoes taste just
like I remember ... I think the product shipped to the grocery stores
these days are awful. They are hard as rocks and better used as
baseballs. They are flavorless with no texture and I had almost
stopped using tomatoes. I now enjoy tomato sandwiches again."



-- "We serve several five star restaurants and whenever the UglyRipes are
available, that is all they will use. To not allow this tomato to be
produced and shipped in the United States would be a huge loss for
both our industry and the consumer. The shape of the UglyRipe tomato
distinguishes it from all the other tomatoes. It is the tomato that
tastes like a tomato."



-- "I don't care how they look, just how they taste. Please change your
rule and exempt these tomatoes from shape standards."



-- "Let the customers decide."



-- "I want to be able to purchase a good tasting tomato year round. It is
ridiculous that all we have available in Michigan is cardboard tasting
baseballs disguised as, I say loosely, tomatoes. Please bring us
UglyRipes."



-- "As an Ohio resident that grows delicious tomatoes all summer long,
eating those so called 'tomatoes' that are shipped here in the winter
is a disgrace ... I clearly am in full support of allowing these
wonderful tomatoes (UglyRipes) to be shipped to us here in Ohio, as
well as anywhere else in the USA to those that really enjoy a REAL
tomato."



-- "The UglyRipe is my favorite tomato and I feel that this exemption
proposed by the USDA is long overdue. In my opinion, it is a
disservice to the American public to limit access of this variety. I
am in full support of making the UglyRipe tomatoes available year-
round."



-- "If there is a tomato in Florida that has good flavor, regardless of
its shape, it needs to be put on the market. We have had enough of
grungy tomatoes. Any tasty tomato would improve the reputation of
Florida tomatoes."



-- "Maybe the adage of 'beauty is only skin deep' is true for a lot of
the produce shipped around the country. Even though the UglyRipe
tomato is 'ugly,' its real beauty is definitely in the taste."



All comments are publicly available on USDA's website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/fv/modockets/966/comments.htm.
Procacci Brothers, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1948 and has since become one of the largest growers and handlers of fresh tomatoes in the world, and handling over 275 thousand tons of organic and conventional produce per year. Procacci Brothers and its Garden State Farms division supply the supermarket industry with a full line of fresh repacked and private labeled fruits and vegetables from around the world. In addition, they are a major supplier of pre-made gift baskets, packed fresh to order daily. From the freshest produce in the world, to the most innovative packaging, to attentive and personalized service, it's always the best. For more information, go to their website, at www.procaccibrothers.com.
SOURCE Procacci Brothers