From breeding to bringing a new tomato variety to market can take as long as a decade. However, Nature Fresh Farms got in contact with a new seed partner in the Netherlands a few years ago, and the variety launches in stores this week. “We travel to the Netherlands twice a year, hunting for varieties with a different, unique taste,” says Matt Quiring, SVP of Sales and Marketing at Nature Fresh Farms. “During these visits, we taste close to 1,000 different tomatoes in a week. When we tried the Kazuti variety, it was a very different experience from everything else we had tried,” Quiring commented. “It’s a diamond in the rough.”
From then on, the company started working with HW Seeds, a small, up-and-coming seed company that has been around for just a couple of years. “In them, we found a like-minded partner, and working closely together has helped progress the partnership. We trialed Kazuti in our greenhouses in Ontario, and it offered us the complete package, from plant type to habitat, yield, disease package, and flavor,” said Quiring. “With about 300 varieties being trialed annually, you are lucky to find one or two that are a success, and that’s what we found in Kazuti.” The company developed a branding proposal, and three years after their first meeting with HW Seeds, the variety is ready to be launched.
Kazuti variety from HW Seeds, branded as Hiiros Tomato by Nature Fresh Farms.
Nature Fresh Farms has branded the Kazuti variety as their Hiiros Tomato, which means Scarlet Red in Japanese. The variety was initially bred for the Japanese market, a market that prefers a high level of umami. “The savory taste is exactly what differentiates this variety from others. It makes the flavor deeper and more defined,” Quiring said. Hiiros have a very deep red color, with very defined and strong green parts, and these visuals are expected to make a big impact. In addition, it has a nice bite that brings the full umami to life. “With umami being one of the top food trends of 2022, we are very excited for the launch of this snacking tomato.” Hiiros will be available at select regional and national retailers across North America.
In North America, Nature Fresh Farms has a preferred partnership with HW Seeds to grow and market this variety. “For now, Hiiros will only be grown in our greenhouses in Ontario,” commented Quiring. The company is looking to expand production to its Ohio greenhouses in the near future. “For the Canadian and US consumers, we are really focusing our high flavor on the vine tomatoes to be grown within Canada and the US. These greenhouses are relatively close to our main markets. “That allows us to guarantee the quality consumers can expect from our exclusive Black Label line.
Hiiros in Black Label packaging.
Breeding for higher segment
HW Seeds breeds for the higher tomato segment, developing varieties for niche markets. As a result, the company mainly breeds cherry on the vine, grape tomatoes, and cocktail tomatoes. “Kazuti was bred for a Japanese client, and the flavor experience is very different as the Japanese consumer prefers to taste sour first, followed by a sweet flavor that needs to dominate,” says Roel Huisman with HW Seeds. It is a unique flavor experience that hasn’t been introduced in North America before.
“With our Japanese client, we have an agreement that allows us to sell this variety in other parts of the world as well,” he commented. “We look for the right partners around the globe, and after doing some research, I thought Nature Fresh Farms could be just that for us,” Huisman shared. He reached out to the company’s Director of Business Development, Ray Wowryk, on LinkedIn, which resulted in a visit from Matt Quiring and Niels Peter Klapwijk to their facilities in Winschoten, in the northeastern part of the Netherlands. “That’s when the partnership started.”
HW Seeds is purposely located in a remote area of the Netherlands, far away from the tomato growing regions, to prevent viruses from entering their greenhouses and impacting their breeding programs.
HW Seeds supports their customers in the process, from trialing to bringing a variety to market. “However, the flavor of a tomato ultimately depends on the ability of the grower to bring it across. The flavor of Hiiros is a big compliment for Nature Fresh Farms as it shows they know how this variety is supposed to be grown,” said Huisman. He is very proud of Nature Fresh Farms’ recent win with Black Label Hiiros at the annual Leamington Greenhouse Competition. “They took home the award for Best Overall Tomato as well as Best Specialty Tomato, which is a great honor for us, too.”