Cluster, color trends on the rise
Jorgenson said the market will see more kinds of specialty tomatoes in coming years, but cluster tomatoes rank as the hottest specialty now, Jorgenson said.
“For cluster tomatoes, bright red color and good attachment to the thrust are important,” Jorgenson said. “These tomatoes also require a more strict approach to flavor because those customers are more concerned with flavor.”
Consumers also are seeing more variety in tomato colors.
“Yellow and orange are our strongest secondary colors,” Kazokas said. “But there’s a limited market for those because people still look for red when they look for tomatoes.”
Expansion, commercial launch coming
One of Syngenta’s efforts, its Rosso Bruno tomato, is a brown vine-ripened tomato marketed by one of the company’s business divisions, Dulcinea Farms LLC, Ladera Ranch, Calif.
The tomato, which was introduced in April 2006, is a greenish-brown color that becomes red only when it overripens. The company recommends eating the tomato when it is a deep brown color, between its green and red stages.
Monique McLaws, marketing manager for Dulcinea Farms, said the company is on target to test a tomato expansion in 2009, followed by a commercial launch in 2010. The Rosso Bruno tomato is the only one the company offers.
“Color differentiation is just another way to set yourself apart,” Jorgenson said. “You taste fruit first with your eyes. If it looks good, the consumer’s already on his way to having a great taste experience.”
Addressing texture concerns
Texture of the fruit can also make or break a consumer’s eating experience.
Angell said BHN breeds for as firm a texture as it can get because the tomato softens as it ripens.
“We’ve had some almost like an apple,” Angell said.
Nunhems Netherlands BV, a Nunhem, Netherlands-based seed company with U.S. headquarters in Parma, Idaho, sells and markets a low-gel tomato through The Produce Exchange, Livermore, Calif.
The Intense tomato, a roma tomato designed with the foodservice market in mind, offers less drip and denser fruit than a regular roma.
The heirloom tomato variety is a generally watery tomato that seems to be gaining popularity. Heirlooms are thought to be high-flavor, but generally have a short shelf life, as they are commonly a backyard garden variety.
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