Why Are Eli & Ali Always Smiling?


Answer: Lower Quality at Higher Prices

Organic-tomatos~~element80~~19There they go again, Eli & Ali smiling at me from their little stickers on their luscious-looking, beef-stake tomatoes. They are grinning because they don’t grow tomatoes, they distribute them.

Growing tomatoes is tough. Success depends on circumstances beyond a farmer’s control, like drought, flood, air and water pollution, and unionized farm workers. The big money is in tomato distribution, done at a desk in an air-conditioned office. Beats farming! Travel may be required to where much of our food is grown, like Central and South America, Portugal and Spain. Those are great places to visit. For distributors like Eli & Ali, trips deductible as business travel.

According to an Eli & Ali employee with whom I spoke last week, locating quality tomato growers lately has had “some issues” for Eli and Ali in the quest for the “best of the best” tomatoes. Recently they even sent a shipment back. I told him they missed the one my batch came from.

But falling below their tastiness standards has not lowered their prices. My latest batch cost $7.99/lb. They looked beautiful, but were more suitable as decorative items. Maybe the trip from Mexico wore them out. Or more likely—as with much “fresh” food—they were cultivated for long-distance travel and good looks at point of sale. Tastiness is a lower priority.

It’s no wonder that Eli & Ali like being distributors. They leave the refunds to the supermarkets when people like me insist fresh food lives up to the taste expectations their appearances and brands create.

Consumerist Takeaway: My supermarket will give me a full refund.

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