For five generations, fruit waste had been a challenge for the Seaside Farm family, tomato growers on Saint Helena Island, S.C. More than 20 million pounds of tomatoes are harvested during a five- to six-week period each year and sold to restaurateurs and local grocers mostly along the East Coast. Until a couple of years ago, the family paid contractors to dispose of the 2 million pounds of tomatoes that wouldn’t last the trip to market.

Mac Sanders, the patriarch of the tomato harvesting family, says, “We found a way to preserve a significant portion of our crop; we hate to waste a beautiful, ripe tomato. Now we turn it into profit. Clayton Industries’ steam generator gave us the ability to process up to fifteen 400-gallon batches of flavorful tomatoes per day during peak season. Great fruit we otherwise would have thrown away, we now use for a line of new products.”

It was during harvest time a few years ago that Sanders’ nephew Ross Taylor, director of business development at Seaside, came up with a solution—Bloody Mary mix.

Recipe in hand, Taylor recruited his Uncle Mac to help design the process, facility and equipment needed for production. They’d have to work with a high volume of ripened fruit in real time during harvest—6 to 8 hours per day, from the last week of May through the first week of July. With little available land on the island, and to keep start-up costs low, they needed a space-efficient facility to suit the purpose.

Taylor specified the kettle, an Italian-made FMT-brand processing mixer-cooker for tomatoes that could heat 400 gallons in 20 minutes. Sanders’ due diligence for the right steam boiler led them to the Pack Expo International show in Chicago. After speaking with several suppliers, the Seaside Farm team zeroed in on Will Brozowski, sales engineer for Clayton Industries.

After learning what Seaside Farm wanted to accomplish, Brozowski specified the SigmaFire SF50 steam generator 50BHP. The unit’s compact size and low weight was suitable for the Seaside Farm building and meshed well with the FMT food processing equipment. 

The unit is capable of full steam pressure with a 5-minute cold start for use on demand. It generates high steam quality to prevent contamination and offers fuel efficiency to help keep operating costs low.

Due to the scale of the Seaside operation, it took just six months from meeting at the trade show to completed installation. “Clayton gave us all the timely attention to detail we hoped they would,” says Sanders.

The swift process helped the family get the new venture up and running by the following harvest, processing up to fifteen 400-gallon batches per day during peak season. “The SigmaFire SF50 steam generator could keep up with the job we needed, no problem,” says Taylor. “The operation costs are fantastic. The burn usage—propane and everything—have been nominal to the degree that we’re not sure how many times we get the tank filled. And we run it hard, six to seven days a week.”

The family launched its new Bloody Mary mix and a variety of other custom products under the Seaside Grown label. Another venture, Frogmore Bottling Company, now offers third-party private label product manufacture. “The equipment will soon pay for itself,” says Sanders.