Taste trials are being carried out to discover if an Italian tomato variety that is bigger than the beef tomato could replace the salad favourite in British consumers' affections.
Seed specialist Syngenta said the cuore di bue variety, which currently has very little presence in British retail outside specialists, met growing consumer demand for specialist varieties - and might even come out on top of the beef tomato in consumer taste trials.
The variety, which originates from Italy and is heart-shaped and pinkish, had a meaty flesh and pairs well with mozzarella, according to Syngenta. "It's much more appealing to the eye," added Elena Ozeritskaya, Syngenta's consumer offer manager.
If consumer feedback on mouthfeel and taste was positive, Syngenta would try and persuade growers to take the variety on, she said, predicting it would eventually overtake the beef tomato in popularity. The company would also consider creating a smaller fruit if consumers thought it was too big, she added.
The variety stood a good chance of taking off in the UK, according to food consultant Anneke Ammerlaan of Ammerlaan Taste & Trends. "Tomatoes with character are set to be the next big trend in tomatoes," she said. "I think it is very likely cuore di bue will replace the beef tomato."
However, the Tomato Growers Association said it was sceptical cuore di bue would gain a mainstream foothold in stores. "I don't think it's going to sweep the board," a spokesman said.
In the past, speciality tomato lines such as the dark green/brown 'kumato' that had been touted as the next big thing in fruit and vegetables had failed to make a serious impact at retail level, he added.
Although the beef tomato represents just 2% of UK retail tomato sales, the variety is popular with chefs and home cooks looking for a tomato that adds substance to a dish.