Kids can “shake off” disinterest in fruit and veg with colourful bite-size tomatoes

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Snack-size colourful tomatoes in convenient on-the-go tubs is pushing the consumption of fresh produce among children, according to Dutch breeders Axia Vegetable Seeds.

As marketers are increasingly targeting children and a growing number of parents are swapping more fresh produce into their kids’ diets, demand for colourful tomato variants is going up.

Sales manager at Axia Vegetable Seeds, Michel de Winter, says bite-size red, orange and yellow tomatoes sold in transparent “shakers” are helping achieve this.

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He was speaking to PBUK during The London Produce Show and Conference, where much of the seminar programme focused on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among children.

“We have cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, plus the standard variety, but the interesting trend is that we are now starting to see more and more tomatoes produced in different colours which of course also taste very different,” he told PBUK.

“In the early days, especially in England we only had the standard varieties and loose tomatoes. It’s much more diverse today with the colours being a really important factor, the smaller snacking sizes, and the shapes.

“This is what is leading more children to get interested in colourful tomatoes, especially the ones with the sweeter taste – put them in a simple shaker and they (kids) get even more excited.”

De Winter adds how Axia Vegetable Seeds invites schools to visit its facilities in the Netherlands to really get a “feel for the flavour” difference available in the snacking range of tomatoes grown under glass.

“It’s interesting to see because the younger kids always choose the sweeter tasting tomatoes and the older children go for a more sophisticated taste with a crunchy bite. “This is important for us to see first-hand because when you have the shaker concept and you want to introduce varieties to kids, you have to think about the sweetness of the tomato.

“People want to snack on tomatoes and parents want to offer something nutritious and alternative to their children other than high sugar foods like chocolate and candy – but the child has to enjoy the product.”

As part of Axia’s research and development work, new varieties are being investigated all of the time, adds de Winter, particularly tomatoes with a higher brix level.

“Right now we have just started to work on a new research programme to try to find out if it’s possible to get higher nutritional levels in tomatoes.

“Obviously we are breeding in a non GMO and authentic way and are exploring how to increase the nutritional qualities of different varieties. It’s an exciting time because we are investigating what the possibilities are.”