M&S concerns over flavour Consumers are still disappointed with the quality of standard salad tomatoes, says Phillip Kemp, technical executive for the produce division of M&S. Speaking to a conference in Warwick last week, Kemp applauded the aim of the British Tomato Growers Association to boost recognition of the national crop. "We are supportive of British produce, but it must be allied to real differences in perceivable quality," Kemp added. British yields have grown from 22kg/sq m in 1975 to as high as 70kg today. Traditional varieties such as Moneymaker and Alisa Craig have given way to hybrids. Yet the total market, valued at £332m, has remained relatively static at around 400,000 tonnes. Currently, standard tomatoes account for 85% of this total. Imports account for 75% of salad tomtoes sold here, but this dwindles to 10-15% during the main English season. "Speciality varieties are worth a fifth of total market value. Customers are willing to pay more for substantially upgraded flavour," he added. Kemp gave examples of the multiple developing air freighted tomatoes from the Canary Islands where fruit could be left longer to mature, broadening the range first with cherry tomatoes and then with an exclusive variety called Melrow for which M&S has a dedicated and financially backed supplier. This tomato has been so successful it is now being grown out of season in South Africa and Spain. A further 12 types have been developed. "There is no way today the single tomato will appeal to everyone," said Kemp. {{FRESH PRODUCE }}