Really tasty tomatoes? You dreamed about it, INRA did it

It’s summer, the season for aperitifs, barbecues and… tomatoes. This king product is not for nothing the favorite vegetable of the French: each year, they consume around 12 kilos per person. But what about the taste? Too often, the products offered are tasteless, undermining consumer expectations. A situation that will soon be a bad memory? The National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) announced at the beginning of July the creation of two new varieties, particularly rich in taste.

And indeed, these new round and red tomatoes, fleshy, melt in the mouth, revealing all their flavor. A pronounced taste, a sweet sensation, a hint of acidity … And a product that sticks to cooking, which keeps a velvety texture once centrifuged. In short, an undeniably tasty tomato. “We wanted to find tomatoes that have taste but are transportable, and not very greedy in inputs” including pesticides, indicates Philippe Mauguin, CEO of Inra.

Harvested at full maturity

These two new varieties, which do not yet have a name, we owe them in large part to René Damidaux, research engineer at Inra and who defines himself as a “tomato breeder”. They are in line with a variety already obtained by INRA, the Garance tomato intended in particular for organic farming and amateur gardeners. “This tomato is tasty but resistant to disease and can be transported without degradation” describes the research engineer.

The advantages of this product? A fruit harvested at full maturity when most of the tomatoes are harvested before, a fruit that can be stored for a week at room temperature, avoiding a loss of taste quality due to the cold and a firm fruit on the outside and melting in the interior. The two new varieties take up these main characteristics: tomatoes in the ground, picked when ripe but with a slightly higher size and new resistance.

Pilot phase

But how do you go from research to fork? A pilot phase is currently underway, the result of a partnership between INRA, Agri Obtentions (an INRA subsidiary specializing in varietal innovation that produces seeds), the Interprofessional Technical Center for Fruits and Vegetables (Ctifl) and TerreAzur, the fruits, vegetables and seafood branch of the distributor Pomona. “For this pilot phase which allows us to test yields, production costs and therefore the selling price, 70 tonnes of these tomatoes will be produced” indicates Jean-Brice Hernu, director of TerreAzur. “But we hope to produce a thousand tonnes of it next year at our 18 sites.”

Suffice to say that you will not immediately see these tomatoes at the bottom of your plate. The Pomona group, which distributes products to catering professionals and local food shops, should introduce these new tomatoes, under the Locabelle brand that it has registered, with commercial catering, then why not collective catering and retailers. If this tomato should have a price rather at the top of the market, Jean-Brice Hernu affirms it: “it is not a luxury tomato.”

“A tasty product gives pleasure to the consumer and a consumer who feels pleasure performs an act of repurchase” adds Jacques Rouchaussé, president of Ctifl, this research organization for the fruit and vegetable sector, from production to distribution. “The fruit and vegetable sector in France is 6.2 billion euros. Each year, around 600,000 tonnes of tomatoes are produced in France against 900,000 tonnes in the Netherlands and even 2.2 million tonnes in Spain. “, he specifies seeing a great opportunity in this sought-after quality.

These new tomatoes, rich in taste and requiring little input, meet the expectations of consumers, some of whom also wish to favor seasonal and local products. A line of thought for the food industry as the Food General Assembly was launched on July 20 …