After being nearly eclipsed by grape tomatoes in the past few years, greenhouse cherry tomatoes are ripe for a comeback.
"When cherries came out 20 or 25 years ago they took the market by storm, and now they're back," said Danny Mucci, vice president of Kingsville-based Mucci Farms.
"Everything now is based on flavor," said Mucci, who recently returned from a research trip to Spain, "and everyone all over the world is looking for a better eating experience."
The company's new deep red Cherto took three years of trials, he said.
Mucci said being pushed on price led growers to focus on higher-yielding varieties that sacrificed flavor.
"Now it's changing," he said. "Retail wants repeat customers and new eating experiences."
Selling cherries on the vine gives them extra appeal, said Joe Spano, Mucci's vice president of sales and marketing.
"You can grill or roast them right on the vine," Spano said.
Leamington, Ontario-based grower-shipper Lakeside Produce is so proud of its Blushes cherry tomato that it built a 14-foot wall of 400 clamshells at its Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit booth in October.
"We worked more than a year to perfect this particular seed and we wanted to showcase it to the industry," said Dean Scott, marketing manager.
"Blushes is a natural variety that blends the classical cherry tomato flavor with unique fruity and sweet notes and crunch," Scott said.
"It's exciting to watch the consumer's eyes open wide when they try it for the first time."
He said Blushes won gold in the specialty tomato category at Essex County's 2016 Greenhouse Competitions.
A crisp texture and "explosive" juiciness characterize the Cloud 9 cherry tomato from Pure Hothouse Foods Inc., packed in a 1-pint box made of tomato plant fiber.
"It doesn't turn super red so it requires more of a marketing effort to showcase its uniqueness, but it's so good it's worth the effort," said director of marketing Sarah Pau.