The head of the company that makes the seeds from which one in seven of the world’s tomatoes is grown has called on UK supermarkets to stop turning the category into a commodity sector.
André Goig, global head of vegetables at Syngenta Seeds, said retailers’ strategies for selling tomatoes meant that they were sacrificing value, quality and diversity for low prices.
Speaking exclusively to The Grocer at a conference organised by Syngenta in Sicily, Goig said: “It is time to fight commoditisation, because it is destroying the integrity of the tomato category.
“Our role is to innovate, and in recent years we have developed at least 25 new
varieties which could add value to the category, but we cannot do it alone.
“We believe consumers are ready to pay a premium price for tomatoes, but we need the retailers to get involved. We are saying, ‘let’s make money by segmenting, diversifying and revaluing’.”
Goig’s words demonstrate that Syngenta, which is well known to growers as a seed and pesticide supplier, has decided to re-align its strategy and engage directly with retailers.
It is understood that all major UK retailers were invited to attend the conference, but only Sainsbury and Marks and Spencer took up the offer.
Syngenta was the company responsible for developing the Kumato black tomato, which has proved a hit for Sainsbury.
Goig said varieties such as the Kumato were “super innovative and pretty shocking”, but added that there was potential to add value to the category with more classic products that suited consumers’ specific preferences and the occasion at which the product was to be used.
Apart from the headline-grabbing Kumato, other new varieties developed by Syngenta include the Toscanella and TyTy.
Richard Clarke