Five years ago, Gautier Seeds started on it's mission to develop a new breeding program that would be able to compete with current varieties, but that still would catch attention and distinguish itself by it's special taste. "Nowadays, all of the varieties that the leading breeders offer to high tech greenhouse growers are being selected with a primary focus on production. We have decided to focus on gustatory perception, while still bearing a similar and competitive production in our minds", said Gautier's Yvo Lens while he gave us a tour through their demo greenhouse. "It's seems time to listen to the wishes of the consumers."
Together with Yvo Lens, HortiDaily.com paid a visit and made a photo report of the tomato trials. Click here to see the photo report.
Gautier is now in the fifth year of it's new tomato breeding program. The French breeder wanted to develop an alternative to the current tomato varieties on offer.
"To be honest, the presence that we have in the Dutch tomato acreage it's not that big, with about 100 hectares it is nothing when you realize that there are more then 1700 hectares with tomatoes in The Netherlands", Lens says modestly when asked about the current presence in Holland.
"But we do not intend to take over the market with a new variety that produces 90 kilos per square meter and that has all of the popular resistances. We are on a mission to change the habits of the growers, trying to convince them that you still be competitive with a tasty variety, without loosing productivity."
During the tour in the demo greenhouse at Rimato, Lens showed me the current selection of the most interesting varieties that are available from Gautier. One of the eye catchers was Carpenter (G296).
Carpenter is a tomato on the vine that has all of the features a grower can find in the common offers from the competition, but there are a few things extra; a terrific taste and remarkable presentation and shelve life. These are two things that usually do not go together with a production of more then 70 kilograms per square meter, but with Gautier they do.
Carpenter is flagship variety for the tomatoes on the vine at Gautier. "Left truss is 10 days old. The right truss is fresh harvest. Seek the difference! "
"I think this is a result of the shift in our focus", said Lens. "We do not breed with the first aim to reach that 70's kg/m2. We focus on taste and presentation + shelf life, and in a later stage we eliminate the varieties that can't keep up with the production of the competition. We approach the entire breeding process from a different angle than our colleagues."
The remarkable developments at Gautier did not remain unnoticed in the horticulture industry. During the open days, the breeder received much positive feedback from the visiting growers and retailers.
"They really appreciate our work, and show serious interest in some of our varieties", Lens said. According to him, many of the Dutch growers realize that there have to change something in their business models. "They produce a lot but against low pricing and there seems to be no satisfied feeling, they do not have the idea that they are growing a demanded product. We truly believe that we can break this negative period, and the positive feedback on our varieties is something that is motivating us very much."
"After five just years we are already looking back on a very positive breeding program", Lens proudly states. "We started with nothing, but now we finally can offer growers the first commercial varieties of our breeding program, varieties that are distinguishing themselves from the market."
"We are looking forward to intensifying our cooperation with growers and retailers that listen to the customers", Lens said. Lens has an outstanding career in the vegetable seed business and said that he is happy to be part of the Gautier team. "All of the years that I have been in the seed business, we have been listening to the needs of the growers, developing varieties that had high yields and resistances, and we have sometimes forgotten about taste. Better said; we have forgotten about the consumers needs!"
Lens also was referring to the introduction of many types of tomatoes over the past few years. "The consumer can not identify what kind of TOV or Loose tomato he is eating. He recognizes and experiences the shape, the size, the weight, but he can not recognizes taste. This is a serious problem on the supermarket shelves."
According to Lens, new varieties that are bred with a focus on taste can break this cycle." IF you develop a variety that you recognize by it's extraordinary or authentic taste, you can deploy a much better market. Together with the right packaging you can brand your products amongst consumers. Over the past few years, there are only a few growers who dare to do this in Western-Europe. But the ones who did, are now picking the fruits and have a thriving business. And above all; happy customers that are loyal to their brands and varieties!"