Tomato value addition: Earn more money from your product

Tomato value addition: Earn more money from your product

By Petronela Guvamombe

Tomatoes are fruits; however, they are used as vegetables in the culinary industry due to their low sugar content. In Zimbabwe, they are grown in abundance in summer and winter by both small- and large-scale farmers.

Although fresh tomatoes are appetizing and delicious, they can’t be stored for a long time. Tomatoes have a very low shelf life and they quickly go bad. Every year about over 20percent fresh tomato fruits are lost through post-harvest losses. These post-harvest losses are mainly due to inadequate post-harvest handling, lack of infrastructure, processing, and marketing and storage facilities.

Since tomatoes are grown by anyone from backyard farmers to commercial farmers, the prices fluctuate according to supply and demand thus seasonal gluts are more common resulting in farmers selling their produce at disheartening prices. Thus, when supply exceeds demand, tomatoes lie discarded in the fields, leaving the farmer disappointed as the farmer will get money that does not even meet their production cost forcing them out of business.

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Farming will be a more lucrative like industry if a farmer gets reasonable profit for the fresh product. A farmer can earn more profits if tomatoes are processed near the site of production and converted into value added products thus taking them one step up along the value chain process. Despite that tomatoes can be value added into various delicious products with a longer shelf life, only a few people actually add value to fresh tomatoes. One of the main reasons is due to lack of knowledge and expertise and fear of competition. Another reason is due to lack of constant supply of good quality and cheaper raw material to the processing centre as not all tomato varieties can be processed and most farmers grow varieties not suitable for processing.

This article will save as an eye opener to those who wish to get more profits, have greater control and have more value from fresh tomatoes. I will share with you various products you can make from tomatoes and what you need to do to get started.

It is however of great importance to note that not every tomato variety is suitable for processing as some taste better when eaten in their original form that is as table tomatoes. Another reason is some varieties cannot withstand processing conditions like high temperatures and other processing conditions they will be subjected to. The other determinant for suitability for processing is total solid sugars measured in °Brix by a refractometer (at least 3.50 depending on the required product).  In Zimbabwe there are many tomato varieties suitable for processing for example Sygenta Ercole and Chibli F1 arietiess. If you wish to add value to your tomatoes make sure to grow the right variety, ask the extension officers for the suitability of the variety for processing.

Moreso, MARKET MATTERS!. Do not add value to your products just because there is a surplus or glut in the market because if there is no one to buy it you will incur a double loss. Make products people want with the preferred quality and you must be able to sell it at a price that allows you to make profit and continue running the enterprise. In case there is a market, position your product so well that when customers are comparing your products to that of competitors, they will make an apple to orange comparison. This is because the competition is stiff as they are big brands like Rabroy andMr Sauce in the market and international brands like Heinz, and to penetrate a market and win the hearts of customers you have to do something different.

Tomato value added products

Now let’s have a look at different tomato value added products a small-scale farmer/processor can make. Tomatoes can be value added into various shelf stable, safe and high-quality products. The is the amount of value you can add to tomatoes is only limited by your own imaginations.

Tomatoes can be value added but not limited to

  • tomato paste
  • tomato ketchup
  • tomato toffee
  • Pickles
  • chutney
  • tomato juice
  • tomato puree
  • dried tomato powder
  • tomato jam
  • tomato soup
  • frozen tomatoes
  • tomato cocktail

What you need before starting a tomato Processing enterprise

This however does not apply to only tomato processing business but any other food processing business

  • Feasibility study: Having an idea for a business is not a sufficient reason to begin production straight away. It is essential to be aware of the different aspects involved in actually running the business successfully and sustainably. To reduce the risk of failure, producers should first do a feasibility study before developing a business plan.

        The feasibility study will help you to make decisions on:

  • Whether the business will work successfully
  • The demand for the product
  • The resources available to produce the product at the right quality and for the right price
  • Whether the business will be profitable
  • Whether a loan is needed, and if so, how much and when
  • Business plan: The results of the feasibility study are used to make the business plan. This helps to clarify and focus your ideas and to make the mistakes on paper rather than during the operation of the business. A business plan will serve as a roadmap for your business.
  • Raw materials availability: High quality raw materials must be available to sustain productions throughout the year. Two common determinants of raw materials quality are ripeness and total soluble sugar content. You can either use your own raw materials or you can source them from other farmers.
  • Processing equipment. You must have appropriate equipment of the right sizes to satisfy your market share and meet the demand. All processing equipment must be easy to clean and complement each other to prevent bottlenecks.
  • Expertise and Skills: You must have the expertise to make quality products needed by customers and availability for further trainings if need be. Thus, the expertise and skills to make the product and run the business including the safety and quality aspects.
  • Utilities and Services: For the business to run smoothly there must be availability of utilities such as water, electricity, fuel or any other services needed.
  • Market: No matter the type of product you wish to make always ensure you have a ready market for the finished product. There is no point in making a product if it’s going to rot on the supermarket shelves with no one to buy it. Do the research on where you are going to sell the product, distribution channels you are going to use and price you will sell the product at.
  • Processing facilities: You should have a hygienically designed and easy to clean building/room to prevent contamination of products. Due to the nature (bulkiness and perishability) of the tomatoes, it is better to locate the processing site close to the raw material source.
  • Labor: Availability of trained operators and resources to improve their knowledge.

To increase the chances of Success, do a feasibility and market research, this will help you know if the business will work or if there is a market for the finished product.

The good news in starting tomato value addition is that almost anyone can start the business, and you don’t need to be educated or have a degree or diploma to start adding value to your tomatoes.

Most of the products listed above don’t need much expertise and capital but only basic kitchen equipment.  You can start small and grow big. I would love to end this article by saying, it’s not always easy to get started but with perseverance, determination and help, almost anyone can start and run a Successful and Sustainable food processing business.

Petronela Guvamombe is Food Scientist and Technologist with major interests in value addition and food Processing. She loves seeing and helping people get more value from their farming businesses. She also loves teaching people food handling and safety issues as a result she volunteers as the Facilitator for Food Handling sessions at GSM.

Due to her passion for helping people run successful and sustainable food processing business, she is a founder of RightHook Agroprocessing Consultancy organization an organization that provide consultancy and training services on food processing, quality and safety related issues.


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