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Tomato sales value slipped last year in UK

Tomato 3

The value of tomato sales in the UK slipped last year, Kantar Worldpanel data shows.

Figures for the 52 weeks to December 7 show total sales of £706.2 million, down 4.8% on the same period in the previous 12 months. This was despite the sales volume rising slightly – by 1.1% – to nearly 258,000 tons.

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source: Kantar Worldpanel

Tomatoes in one in four shopping baskets

But tomatoes remain popular with consumers, data from shows. They came in 7th on its list of the 25 most bought items in its UK shoppers’ baskets last year. And they were in more than one in four shopping baskets bought in the UK from mySupermarket in 2014.

The company’s figures for December 2013 to November 2014 also show tomatoes are popular year–round. Over those twelve months, an average of 27.5% of all shopping baskets had tomatoes in them, with a dip to 19.98% in December 2013 and rise to above 30% last June and July.

Mostly non–loose and non–organic tomatoes

The vast majority of the tomatoes were pre–packed and very few organic. On average, just 0.87% of baskets had organic tomatoes in them. This level was fairly consistent throughout the year and while low, was higher than for other products, such as peppers (0.34%) and berries (0.61%), both of which showed more monthly variation.

An online shopping and comparison website, MySupermarket, gathers data from more than 50,000 unique shoppers and 4.5 million visitors each month. In terms of traffic it is the UK’s third largest supermarket after Tesco and Asda.




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Tomato Inspiration Award 2015 won by Duijvestijn Tomaten



The Dutch company Duijvestijn Tomaten has been deemed the best tomato grower in the world in the field of crop and process technology after winning the Tomato Inspiration Award 2015.

The prize was announced in Berlin last Thursday, February 5, during the 2nd edition of the Tomato Inspiration Event, and presented by John Newell, from last year’s winner Windset Farms.

Duijvestijn Tomaten was particularly praised by the jury of experts for its efforts in the field of geothermal energy and development and realization of the ID Kas, a new sustainable and energy-efficient greenhouse concept.

R & L Holt from England finished in second place with its ultra modern Springhill Nurseries.

Houweling’s Tomatoes from Canada and Royal Pride Holland from the Netherlands shared third place, while United Farms from Mexico completed the top 5.

Other nominated companies were Wiig Gartneri from Norway, D’Vine Ripe from Australia, Matysha Maroc from Morocco, Scherzer Gemüse from Germany and RedStar from the Netherlands.

The Tomato Inspiration Event was attended by more than 200 horticultural representatives and among them the top 100 tomato growers in the world, of which 10 were nominated for the award for the world’s most innovative tomato grower in the field of crop and process technology.

The jury consisted of Gene Giacomelli, director of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson (US), Ep Heuvelink, professor at the chair group Horticulture and Product Physiology at Wageningen University (Netherlands),  Stefania De Pascale, professor of horticulture at the University of Naples Federico II (Italy) and Tadahisa Higashide, chief researcher at NARO Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science in Tsukkuba (Japan).


Click here for more information about the Tomato Inspiration Event.


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Patent applications reveal ways to improve tomato production



Various inventions promising improved tomato production are covered in patent applications recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. In this small sample we look at a vine tomato that stays firm longer, tomatoes with higher sugar content, and greenhouse lighting helping insects find – and thus pollinate – flowers more easily.

Vine tomato with longer shelf life

California’s Arcadia Biosciences seeks a patent for “tomatoes that soften more slowly post-harvest due to non-transgenic alterations in an expansin gene.” In its patent application it explains new tomato varieties are needed that have the desirable qualities of vine-ripened fruit (in taste, texture and colour) but reduced spoilage. However it also notes some consumers don’t like genetically modified foods.

It says it has a solution with its (non–GMO) method, which is the product of a human-induced mutation in a tomato gene – LeExp1 – linked to fruit softening.

Tomatoes with higher sugar content

Tomatoes with improved fruit quality, such as increased levels of starch, soluble solids, and/or sugars are described in an application from the governing board (Regents) of the University of California. It says the ripe fruit has sugar levels (fructose and glucose) at least 10% higher, usually at least 30% higher, than control plants.

The method for which the patent is being sought involves producing plants that deliver green fruit with increased chloroplast development. This is achieved via a rise in what is known as GLK (Golden2-like) activity in the green fruit and results in an increase in the products of photosynthesis and carbon fixation, such as starch and eventually soluble sugars, in ripe fruit.

Putting flowers in their best light

And from Finland comes an application for an invention using special lighting in greenhouses to enhance insect pollination of plants, such as the tomato.

Valoya, a Helsinki-based provider of energy efficient LED lights, says the best effect is achieved when the emission peaks of the lighting have a high reflectivity from flowers and/or high sensitivity in the insect vision. “The insects can see the flowers better, and therefore find them more easily, which increases the efficiency of pollination by the insects.”

It says the method reduces insect mortality and increases pollination efficiency and photosynthetic growth, thereby improving the productivity of the plant cultivation.


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Sakata Vegetables : Europe expands seed range


Melon, broccoli still linchpins of veteran seed breeder with ‘taste comes first’ motto. Broccoli seeds are still Sakata’s mainstay, accounting for about 80% of its sales. But its Piel de Sapo (also called Christmas) melon varieties are big sellers in the EU, especially Spain, and form a quarter of its global sales for this crop.
Sakata continually seeks to optimise its range and is starting to expand its portfolio of varieties with new types of broccoli. As a company where “Taste comes first®”, Sakata focuses not just on varieties with improved performance for growers, but added value in terms of the eating experience of consumers. With this in mind, it is also launching a branded range of specialty/cocktail tomatoes varieties, Majestar®, which includes only those varieties with a minimum level of flavour. “In the coming year, we plan to expand this concept into a wide range of other vegetables and fruits,” said Andrew Dominy, head of marketing.

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Azura puts taste first, testing 350 varieties

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“We strive to offer our clients an integrated service, from production to packaging”, explains Odile Lavail, marketing and communication manager for Azura Group. “Recently we have concentrated on research. We are trying to find the tomato varieties with the best taste.” For this reason, Azura is cultivating about 350 tomato varieties in its greenhouse. Next year, it will choose the best 40 varieties from them and, finally, just 1-2 will be selected for further production. “There are many evaluation criteria – such as ease of production, high plant yield, pest and disease resistance – but delicious taste remains dominant,” said Lavail. “Therefore, we often organize tastings for consumers.” Azura is a French-Moroccan group of companies and one of the largest private producers of tomatoes in the world, with 68 farms and nearly 900 ha of agricultural land. It grows tomatoes and other produce in Morocco and exports them to France and other countries. “We are satisfied with our penetration in European markets and not expanding it but instead focusing on providing the best service,” Lavail said. “That’s our strategic target at the moment.”

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Takii Seed soon celebrating 180 years and worldwide recognition

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After nearly 180 years in business, Takii Seed, which describes itself as the oldest seed company in the world, continues its obsession with quality. “It is a great opportunity for us to bring Japanese fresh products focused on taste into European culture because the first thing growers ask about in Europe is yield,” explained Erik Vesseur, sales and marketing manager for vegetables at Takii Seed Europe. Takii Seed’s main products are: brassicas, onions (short, medium, long, yellow and red), rootstock and tomatoes.  Proud of its local achievements, Takii Seed is well-known for its fresh produce in Japan, where 70% of the tomato and aubergine and 60% of the carrot varieties are bred by it. Takii’s global footprint is also impressive, with a presence in ten foreign locations. Takii´s expertise in breeding, production, sales and marketing are the ideal ingredients that have produced successful varieties such as Export Tomato “Takumi F1” (suitable for loose or truss harvest) and “TRF1098”. Both these vigorous varieties have been developed for winter production in the Mediterranean region (Spain and Morocco) and carry the benefit of resistance to TYLCV.  The firm has also introduced in Europe the well-known pink Japanese tomato, which delivers a delicious taste. And its Momotaro tomato variety combines its pink colour with its identity.  Takii’s mild-flavored brassicas with a sweet-peppery punch add a special touch to salads and have the advantage of being available year-round. Furthermore, the brassica varieties are specially adapted to processing by harvesting machines.  CV

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Costa de Almería with more specialities in fresh and ready-to-eat

costa almeria

The group continues to increase the number of specialties it supplies both in fresh and precooked produce. This year they are introducing the Palermo pepper (broader Italian type with thicker walls and red colouring), cow horn pepper (mainly for Hungary), hot pepper and raspberry.
Last year the group spent 1.5 million on its “5th range” precooked convenience foods factory, where they prepare and pack red, green and yellow roasted peppers, and the same product with cod, ready to eat with a 6-month shelf life, under the “QDelicias” brand. Roast courgette and aubergine products will soon be added to the assortment. To this end, they have secured an agreement with the Andalusian Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training of Andalusia (Ifapa), with a view to developing these new products. 
The “QDelicias” range will be traded in the domestic market, the United Kingdom and France. Overseas markets are also explored: Costa de Almería took part in a promotional activity in Mexico along with Extenda, to promote their ready-to-eat range in the 89 Superama chain outlets in this American country, a company belonging to Walmart Mexico and Central America with a track record of over 45 years. 
“The added value of QDelicias roasts is their freshness, as the pepper is roasted recently cut and packaged immediately”, notes Vargas. Costa de Almería will continue its investment strategy with another 1.5 million euros to expand storage facilities by 2000 m, cold chambers by 1000 m, a cucumber line and manufacturing machinery for cherry pear tomato.
The group closed last season with a sales volume of 140 million kilos, which translates to a value of around 100 million euros. Chairman Juan Enrique Vargas considers that the sector “has covered costs and that’s not enough, despite the crisis context. This year we’ve exceeded last year’s production figures with roughly 20 million kilos more”, explains Juan Enrique. He added that this also had a lot to do with the la E. coli crisis from the previous campaign, which obliged them to “shut up shop” 2 months earlier than anticipated. 
Costa de Almería Fruit and Vegetables closed the crop year with an average price of just over half a Euro per kilo produced, similar to the figures reported throughout the sector. “To say that the campaign has been good, the average price should be around 60 or 65 cents per kilo”, he explains. 
The Roquetas de Mar-based Group embarked upon a six-year strategic plan of action in the previous campaign which accounts for more than €3 million in investments. It culminated last month with the purchase of reference auction Cehorpa from Agrupaejido, for a spend of 15 million euros. 

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Hortofruticola Mabe consolidates growth


One of the benchmarks in peppers, Mabe Hortofrutícola is keeping up its winning quality commitment and confirms its growth forecast of 8% to 70,000 tons traded this season. For this campaign they have 600 ha of greenhouse vegetables in production. They are backed by prestigious certificate such as Global Gap, BRC, Tesco Nurture, QS, IFS, Albert Heijn, etc.
Cucumber and pepper are the items showing the biggest increase, with +30% and +18% respectively. Their annual supply adds up to 35,000 tons of pepper and 18,000 of cucumber. This campaign, along with the rest of the sector, quantities are being affected by the recent attacks of New Delhi virus, with a sharp drop of around 40%, amid fears that the watermelon and melon campaign might also feel the impact, according to initial tests.
MABE, whose objectives are quality, safety and sustainability, is working on the rollout of a FOOD DEFENCE system involving measures to prevent intentional contamination of the production process or products by means of chemical products, biological agents or other noxious substances. MABE also engages in sustainability programmes through the implementation of energy consumption saving equipment. 

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Agroponiente Group reaches 286 million kilos


The group’s production area is spread throughout the province of Almeria, from Cuevas de Almanzora to Adra, with logistic points in areas such as La Alpujarra, Alhama, Palomares, Níjar, Adra, Roquetas or El Ejido, as well as along the Granada Coast. 
The group trades in nine product families, including tomato, cucumber, pepper, courgette, aubergine, beans, Chinese leaves, melons and watermelons, each with a wide range of varieties. 
The group’s production last season notably reached 286,000,000 kg, a result unassumingly qualified by the company as “moderately positive”, with similar figures forecast for the current campaign.
The main distribution channels for Grupo Agroponiente focus on wholesale trading, aimed at supermarket chains and markets.
The Group has been characterised for several years now by sustained growth in volume and custom, covering practically all countries in Europe, with pride of place going to Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Poland and the Netherlands, followed by Scandinavia and the Baltic countries as well as Russia. Over the last two campaigns they have rolled out a strategy of direct trading with the United States and Canada, which is also continuing an upward trend.  Alongside this, it should be noted that just over a year ago the group started up trial exports to North America, with produce shipped to Canada and the eastern coast of the USA. The plan is to continue this experience for the coming campaign and one of the main challenges lies in the logistical organisation required in order to make headway in terms of volumes and customer portfolio. The proliferation of specialities is remarkable, especially in tomatoes and peppers, but also in other products such as aubergine.  Agroponiente is currently engaged in an in-depth task to link production with market demand, among other things focusing on these specialities, ranging from black tomato, cherry, Rebellion or Raf to striped aubergine or several different types of pepper. 

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La Unión exceeds 1,000 ha in cultivation

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Alhóndiga la Unión’s growth is set to continue in coming campaigns. Today they have around 1,000 hectares in cultivation and certified by GlobalGAP.
Last season they traded 270 million kilos and 5% growth is forecast for the current campaign. La Unión supplies a broad variety of products, with cucumber as the main attraction at 31% of production, followed by pepper at 19%, courgette at 17%, then watermelon and tomato with 10% and the rest in aubergines, melons and beans.
Their main distribution channels are through the supermarket chains. Around 65% of their produce is traded through these outlets, while the rest is marketed by commercial agents. La Unión is raising the courgette category due to demand and the product’s widespread uptake in new destination markets. They are also introducing the round courgette, which is being very well received. Russia is currently one of their main destination markets, taking in a large percentage of exports. Moreover, last year they opened up new receiver markets in the USA and Canada. The quality department at Alhóndiga la Unión certifies the whole production process, all the way from the farm to manufacturing in their warehouses. To this end they maintain all the relevant certification such as BRC, IFS, Integrated Production, Tesco Nature, GlobalGap as well as their own laboratory, accredited by ENAC, where over 30,000 analyses are performed. The Group’s interest in the quality system is further highlighted by their initiation in GlobalGap Grasp certification and signing up to the Ecoembes programme. As part of their environmental commitment, they have 4 Sigfito pickup points for used phytosanitary product containers.
Their extensive professional trajectory continues apace with the development of a new robotic line for courgette and their latest new product, a microperforated plastic container to increase the shelf life of produce by up to 20 days.