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Quality, availability, uniqueness and visibility for success:

Waitrose shares key elements for boosting the British tomato industry

“The British tomato industry has an amazing potential. However there are some points we could work on to make the industry even more successful.” said Waitrose's Technical Manager Agronomy Alan Wilson at this year’s British Tomato Conference. Wilson listed some key elements that are of crucial importance for the development of the domestic market share for British tomatoes.

According to Wilson, the British tomatoes have a huge advantage in the competition, and that is their taste. “Quality is always the first for Waitrose, because that attracts customers. That’s one of the reasons why we are committed to British tomatoes long-term.” However, he also mentioned that the market share of British tomatoes in the whole United Kingdom is only around 20%. “Some work needs to be done!”

Alan Wilson of Waitrose at the British Tomato Conference last month.

“It is possible to change this number with some effort. Let’s take a look at the example of the strawberry market. Twenty-five years ago our strawberry production was deep down, the share of the British produce was 10%. Today in season it’s 98%!”

Wilson explained, that similarly to strawberries, also tomatoes should be more appreciated on the market. According to him, growers should engage customers and promote the fame of British tomatoes. They should speak up louder than ever before to be more visible. “This is crucial if we want a viable industry in ten years’ time”. During his presentation, Wilson praised the work of the Tomato Grower’s Association, which already has achieved a lot in the promotion of the British tomato.

Freshness can also play a key role for success. Growers should transport them as fast as possible. The best situation would be that we get the tomatoes in a Waitrose store just a few hours after harvest”, Wilson said to highlight the desire for a short chain.

“Another important issue is the variety-question”- according to Wilson, customers can get confused by the myriad of new types. “There is still room for a killer variety, which is absolutely unique. A variety, which is produced only in Britain. And we need it not for small niches but for mass production.”

Waitrose' technical manager agronomy furthermore mentioned a year round production. ”A real break-through can be achieved by year-round production. I’m very grateful for the presentation of Philips at this year’s TGA Conference, because I truly think that lighting is the way forward for British tomatoes.”