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Small tomatoes on the rise
"Size matters, but taste is king"
The Tomberry, the world's smallest tomato
According to Jan van Heijningen from specialty breeder Eminent, the market is ripe for change. With an average diameter of 1 centimeter and a weight of 1-2 grams, their Tomberry is the world's smallest tomato. The tiny tomato is named after a berry because of its size, which is considerably smaller than the smallest cherry tomatoes that weigh 8-12 grams.
Van Heijningen: "The trend to grow ever-shrinking tomatoes has actually been going on for more than 10 years. Over time, in the race to harvest as many kilos per square meter as possible, the snack tomato increased in weight from 10 grams to 20 grams. You used to be able to fit two snack tomatoes in your mouth, but now only one will fit."
Tommies Mini Toppers in their distinctive packaging
Same tomato, smaller tomato
In 2005, Greenco was amongst the first to introduce a red snack tomato called Tommies. Since then, the weight has remained the same. Jos van Mil of Greenco: "The Tommies snack tomato has weighed 10 grams for years." Van Mil wonders what the use is of the enormous increase in the number of tomato varieties in the supermarket. "You can now choose between perhaps thirty different types of tomatoes, but for what reason have all those tomatoes been developed?"
Last month, Greenco also launched a smaller tomato. The introduction of Tommies Mini Toppers followed years of development and research. Van Mil: "The Tommies Mini Toppers had to be half the size of the regular Tommies snack tomatoes, but flavor was the determining factor. They are small tomatoes with a sweet flavor." The small size of Tommies Mini Toppers make them ideal to add to any dish without having to cut the tomato, making it easier to eat healthy."
The succes of the snack tomato
Growing small, light tomatoes is labor intensive and therefore expensive, says Kris Goen of Syngenta. The smallest tomato Syngenta grows is the 'Lullaby', a vine cherry tomato weighing 9 grams. In addition, as a loose snack tomato, the 'Sweetelle' variety is grown a lot and weighs 11 to 12 grams on average. Goen continues to believe in the value of snack tomatoes of around 10 grams and finds it difficult to make a prediction about the future of the mini tomato. "Not all specialty varieties are created to become very big, but no one had expected the success of the snack tomato."
The challenge is to convince the consumer of the added value of a smaller tomato. Van Heijningen: "At one point we saw the trend towards the convenience of a loose tomato that can be tossed directly over your dish. And the moment you have such a tomato, you bring it to market. Call it intuition."
Packaging plays an important role in the marketing of a new product. Van Mil: "But the most important thing is that the product inside meets the expectations created by the packaging." The packaging must be a trigger to take the product off the shelf, but then the taste is decisive. If the flavor isn't good, consumers won't continue to buy the product."
This article appeared earlier in edition 3, 32nd volume of Primeur. See www.agfprimeur.nl.
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