Is your tomato firm and flavoursome?
01 January 2017
Is your tomato firm and flavoursome? Or is it tough and tasteless? How Innovative Fresh can help you to be the best with the world’s most popular fruit.
Tomatoes originated in Central and South America, where they were known to have been eaten by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 AD. They were first imported to Spain after the Spanish Conquistadors colonised South America, and were first documented in Europe in the 16th Century.
Spain, Italy and The Netherlands are the largest European producers of tomatoes. In Spain, the tomato is eaten daily – fresh, crushed, stewed, and as a sauce served regularly as a side dish or dip. In Italy, one thinks immediately of Caprese Salad, pasta sauces and pizza toppings.
Further north in Europe the Mediterranean styles of cooking are popular, but regional dishes would include tomato soup, stuffed and roasted fruits, stews and relish. Many homes in the UK will have a jar or two of Green Tomato Chutney, where a home-grown crop has failed to ripen!
Today the most popular variety is still the standard vine tomato, but trends are moving towards specialities such as snack packs, offering cherry tomatoes in different shapes and colours. Cherry vine and large beefsteak fruits are also popular for roasting.
Taste in tomatoes is becoming more important. Customers are looking for a really good flavour with a nice bite. Of all vegetables, the tomato is currently the most important group which we monitor on a weekly basis.
Most people still focus only on brix, but the taste of tomatoes involves so much more. A high brix does help towards a better taste, but without acidity the flavour would still be flat. A good sugar/acid balance is crucial, and the right balance differs according to the type of tomato. Also, firmness is important – if this is lost, there is a greater risk of mealy tomatoes.
In all of our tomato lines, we monitor brix, acidity and firmness, but also other quality aspects which are of importance to the consumer. These include colour, vine freshness, % of fruit fallen from the vine, split fruit and other blemishes.
As many of our samples are bought in store, over ripe fruit and vine freshness are really common problems. But the biggest challenge is to get a uniform product from one week to the next. Although tomatoes are grown in greenhouses, the quality still depends upon weather conditions. That is why we always measure tomatoes every single week.
Another issue we notice is that the eating quality of tomatoes varies enormously. Take, for instance, the shakers with snack tomatoes. They may look the same for a container of 200 or 250g but the brix levels can vary from 6 to 9, which can result in disappointment for the consumer.
At Innovative Fresh we give retailers and suppliers insight into both product quality and eating quality, compared to similar products on the market. With this information, improvements can be made to serve the customer better. We can compare varieties, suppliers, growing systems and different brands.