Japanese Tomato Farmer Hits Sweet Spot With Viral Marketing

Japanese Tomato Farmer Hits Sweet Spot With Viral Marketing

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING …Soga Farm sells tomatoes utilizing distinctive names, which have gone viral on social mediaPUBLISHED ON July 16, 2023Soga Farm President Shinichi Soga stands in a greenhouse the place he grows tomatoes in Niigata. (Photo: Soga Farm)NIIGATA, Japan –Tomato-producing Soga Farm in Niigata has created a stir on social media by means of an creative advertising technique, with orders pouring in from throughout Japan regardless of the proprietor himself not being so eager on the well-known fruit.
The secret to the success of Soga Farm lies not solely within the sweetness of their tomatoes but additionally within the uncommon names the enterprise makes use of for branding completely different tomato breeds, with its well-known “Dark Side Tomatoes” having generated the farm a big following on-line.
Shinichi Soga, 45, is a third-generation farmer and president of the corporate. He got here up with distinctive names for the assorted sorts of tomatoes the corporate sells, which have shortly gone viral on Twitter and considerably boosted their gross sales income lately.
After graduating from the Tokyo University of Agriculture, Soga labored as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer, offering technical steering on crop cultivation in African international locations just like the Ivory Coast and Senegal.
But he admits that farming was initially solely a method to assist his abroad journey. “I by no means deliberate on farming in Japan. I’d all the time thought tomatoes have been lame.”
Nonetheless, Soga determined at age 27 to rebuild his household’s farming enterprise after it started struggling financially. He began off cultivating chicory, artichokes and different Western greens which he had introduced again from France, however gross sales by no means picked up. Eventually, he turned to the meals he most despised — tomatoes.
Soga ordered a number of new sorts of seedlings and utilized agricultural strategies handed all the way down to him from his household. After about 5 years of choosing the right tomato varieties and refining them by means of buyer suggestions, he was in a position to excellent a agency and sweet-flavored tomato, which he thought could possibly be successful.
Packed filled with umami taste, the tomatoes have been a hit after being marketed as “Gold Stripe Tomatoes,” with the title coming from the golden radial stripes on the underside of the fruit, however gross sales nosedived within the spring of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Since his tomatoes are grown at his farm over the winter in a area that was once often called Echigo Province, now situated in Niigata Prefecture, Soga named them “Etto Tomatoes,” which means “overwinter tomatoes.” But regardless of his finest efforts, orders remained gradual, although he shifted to on-line gross sales.
It was round that point when Soga observed some tomatoes from his crops have been turning black, with the fruits creating what is usually referred to within the trade as “butt rot.”
The phenomena can happen when farmers cut back how a lot water they provide their tomatoes as they develop as a way to enhance their sugar content material, inflicting the fruit to lose its skill to soak up calcium. Naturally, many shoppers wouldn’t buy them due to their ugly look and title.
But Soga determined to buck the development, and as a substitute remarketed them as “Dark Side Tomatoes,” referencing Darth Vader, the central antagonist of the “Star Wars” franchise who joins the “darkish aspect of the Force” within the well-known science fiction motion pictures.

直売所でフルーツトマトの訳あり品を「闇落ちとまと」と名付けて販売しているんですが、爺ちゃん婆ちゃんは「闇市のとまとはあるか?」と言うので、なんだかうまく伝わっていないようです。(再掲)#名前を間違えられた経験を話す pic.twitter.com/SFWemHtsgJ
— フルーツトマトの曽我農園 SOGA FARM トマトの世界 (@pasmal0220) May 16, 2023

Soga posted pictures of the rebranded fruits on Twitter, the place he acquired over 200,000 “likes” and a deluge of inquiries.
Despite their unseemly look, the tomatoes have lengthy been identified for being exceptionally candy. The black elements of the fruit will also be shaved off and eaten, Soga says.
On its web site, Soga Farm doesn’t advocate that residence gardeners develop their very own Dark Side Tomatoes, as doing so requires having the correct technical data and logic, whereas sustaining an affordable high quality normal.
Buoyed by their success, the corporate’s Etto Tomatoes additionally started promoting out. In May, the corporate started advertising their primary tomato breed, referred to as “Fruit Tomatoes,” utilizing native English pronunciation as a substitute of a Japanese mortgage phrase.
Soga determined to modify the title due to a bittersweet reminiscence from junior highschool, when his classmates used to giggle at him for saying “tomato” as it’s mentioned in American English.
When he wrote about his expertise on Twitter, it instantly created a buzz, and his Fruit Tomato gross sales practically doubled. But what sort of tomato story will Soga provide you with subsequent? He spends his days fascinated about it and chuckling.
“For me, farming is about leisure. I wish to preserve entertaining my prospects,” he mentioned.
–Moka Tabata, KyodoAssociated Press


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