Carmel Agrexco is focusing its NPD on added-value products to give it an edge over its Spanish and Egyptian rivals.

Israel's biggest exporter of fresh produce was developing more niche products to appeal to UK supermarkets looking for the next big thing, its produce group vice president Rani Friedlander revealed to The Grocer this week.

Among these were several new varieties of citrus fruits and the new strawberry variety Dazzle, which will go on sale in M&S for the first time between January and March.

The company has also developed two other strawberry varieties, Orly and Yuval, which it described as "the best in the world" for taste and said would be ideally suited to the British market. Other new value-added lines include coloured apricots, kids' snack-size peppers and the plumgranate a plum with the smell, taste and health benefits of a pomegranate.

"The niche production of today is the mass production of tomorrow," said Friedlander. The strategy would give Carmel a competitive lead over other major exporting countries such as Egypt and Spain, who were more focused on bulk, he added.

Carmel has also invested heavily in Israel's Volcani Institute, a research facility that is developing new varieties of herbs. "We have to develop niche products that give you added value, both in monetary terms and in making you important to the multiple retailer," said Carmel MD Schlomo Tirosh.

The UK is the most important market for Carmel, accounting for 35% of its total exports. Its annual turnover in 2008 was 530m.