A new variety of baby plum tomato, identified only by a code number hours before it was entered in a tasting trial at the National Fruit Show and quickly christened Bon Bon, is already attracting retailers' attention.

Under trial by one of the country's largest producers, Wight Salads, which monitors the progress of some 250 potential winners every year, it won the competition for the best-tasting variety against 47 other contenders.

Kieran Devine, responsible for NPD, said: "We have already had enquiries from the multiples, who are seriously interested."

However Wight Salads has yet to assess how much seed will be available next year from the breeder, who is still being kept secret. UK sales of English tomatoes are valued at £150m by Gerry Hayman, chief executive of the British Tomato Growers Association, with the total tomato market at £500m, and there is still room for growth.

When the industry met at its annual conference this month it was evident that this could be achieved through following the Dutch example of growing crops year round through the use of artificial light. The UK season currently lasts from February to November.

There are also more and more specialist varieties being sold by the multiples. However, Hans Verwegen, analyst for The Greenery believes that while English growers have enjoyed good returns because their production has been market-driven, the competition from imported crops will become more intense.

"Tomato growing is becoming concentrated, increasingly large scale and hi-tech in order to produce for lower prices," he warned,

In the Netherlands, while there were 482 producers in 2000 accounting for 1,133ha, this will have fallen to 200 producers with 1,450ha by next year. The average nursery size will have risen from 2.4ha to 7.3ha.

And there is fruit arriving in the UK from additional sources such as Poland. which has trebled its production in two years.