Heated tomato cultivation is changing globally. Consumers have discovered the large variety of shapes, flavours, and colours. Also they experiment with new applications. Consumers expect a recognisable product, with good flavour all year round. Good news: we have more and more to offer in this area.
There have been drastic changes to the range of fresh tomatoes on offer in the past 25 years. You used to see mainly beef tomatoes, individual round tomatoes and cherry tomatoes for sale. Now the range has expanded to include cocktail tomatoes, plum tomatoes, truss tomatoes and snack tomatoes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colours.
“Consumers have discovered the enormous variety in tomatoes. They try new uses and ways of preparing,” says Crop Breeding Manager Martijn van Stee. “This stimulates the consumption, but of course the expectation pattern also increases.” And this has consequences for the strategy and growing methods of producers. Investment in growth, geographic distribution and assimilation lighting has resulted in companies that offer their customers fruit of a consistent, very high quality all year round.
“This development has been visible for some time in North America,” according to Sales Manager Freek Knol. “Our tomato portfolio has become significantly broader and stronger in recent years. Tomato Maxeza gives us a competitive variety in the large truss segment. It has better scores on flavour and colour than the established varieties and has a comparable physical yield. Many growers have tried the variety and are satisfied with its performance. However, the market is competitive and it is not easy to get a higher price for a variety of higher quality. This does not encourage growers to make the switch. I am convinced Maxeza will win their confidence.”
An emerging market segment is that of the “medley packs”: boxes of fine (flavour) tomatoes of various types and colours. “Our breeders have developed a line of tomatoes with various colours, which can be grown in a uniform manner.”
Other varieties for which there is a growing interest include:
“The government in Russia wants to become less dependent on import streams. They have therefore invested heavily in ultra-modern glasshouses,” according to Product Manager Enza Zaden Export (Eastern Europe) Mike Lemmen. “Established companies and new investors are rolling out projects covering dozens of hectares. In the summer there is usually an adequate supply of these products from unheated poly-tunnels and the many vegetable gardens. Farmers and investors are therefore focusing primarily on the illuminated, heavily heated glasshouse production.
A further 300 ha will be added over the next three years, particularly around Moscow, Saint Petersburg and in the south of Russia. In addition, neighbouring countries are investing in large-scale horticultural projects in the Caucasus and in Kazakhstan. Our market share is also expanding. Tomato Maxeza is doing very well in Russia because this variety performs exceptionally well in a continental climate. Savantas, Tomagino, and Robagino are also very popular. Other specialities will gain a foothold in the coming years.”
With 1,000 ha of heated tomato farming, Poland is a major export country. The domestic demand is dominated by pink beef tomatoes, which account for half of the total acreage. Lemmen: “Seven years ago this product accounted for less than 100 ha. It is a relatively expensive, nostalgic tomato variety with a good flavour. The strong growth in this segment is typical of the economic growth and increased affluence in this country.” Very recently we developed tomato variety E15A.41599 that is makes a big impression in this segment. Also the large truss tomato Maxeza is gradually gaining ground in Poland.