Friday, May 13, 2016

Canned Tomatoes

Perhaps your recipe file, like mine, includes several dishes whose ingredients include cans of diced tomatoes.  I find myself buying canned tomatoes not infrequently at the grocery store.

Maybe your grocery store is also like mine in that the selection of canned diced tomatoes has burgeoned in recent years.

I do not speak of the many brands of diced tomatoes -- Del Monte, Pomi, Contadina, Eden Organic, Muir Glen, Heinz and the generic store brand -- that strain the shelves in the canned vegetable aisle.

Nor do I refer to stewed tomatoes, canned whole tomatoes, canned Roma tomatoes in sauce with basil, tomato sauce, tomato paste or tomato puree.

No no no.  My only concern is the regular 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes.

The problem is the wide variety of types of canned diced tomatoes.  Several times now I have come home and emptied my (canvas) grocery bag to find that I have bought the wrong type of canned diced tomatoes.

All who know me will attest that my cooking skills are limited.  I am not confident substituting different ingredients for those named in a recipe.  And I don't think I'm the only one.

Let me illustrate the complicated decision process facing the diced-tomato shopper with an illustration of the varieties of canned diced tomatoes offered by just one company.

Regular diced tomatoes

Diced tomatoes with no salt added

Petite diced tomatoes

Petite diced tomatoes with no salt added

Diced tomatoes in sauce
Spicy red pepper diced tomatoes
Rosemary and oregano diced tomatoes

Roasted garlic diced tomatoes
Sweet onion diced tomatoes

Basil, garlic & oregano diced tomatoes

Green pepper, celery & onion diced tomatoes

Basil, garlic & oregano diced tomatoes with no salt added

Fire roasted diced tomatoes

Fire roasted garlic diced tomatoes

Organic diced tomatoes (as opposed to synthetic ones, perhaps)

With the occasional exception of fire roasted diced tomatoes, I only buy plain diced tomatoes, and  I don't think I am unusual in this.  When I get to the long, long tomato aisle in the grocery store, the diced tomato selection has been picked over and the cans of plain diced tomatoes are mostly gone.  

Most of what is left are the "tomatoes with" varieties.  With oregano.  With garlic.  With celery.  With onion.   With dark chocolate.  (Okay, I added the last one.  But it definitely could happen.)

If recipes call for cans of plain diced tomatoes, why do canned goods companies go to the expense of setting up separate production lines for so many other varieties of the same product? 

Why do grocery stores stock so many varieties of the same product?  All the "with" items are available elsewhere in the same store, after all.  

Distributing, storing and restocking more products takes more storage space, shelf space and labor than distributing, storing and restocking fewer products.  

Trust me on this: I've studied business economics.  This diced tomato situation is a textbook case of an inefficient supermarket.

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