- Syngenta's purple-skinned Yoom tomato won an innovation award earlier this month at the Fruit Logistica Innovation Awards 2020 in Berlin. The new variety, which the Swiss seed and agrochemical firm developed through a natural selection breeding program, is said to have a tangy sweet-sour flavor and a umami taste.
Voters favored the tomato variety for its color, ranging from purple to black; its high vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content; and its savory flavor, according to a FLIA release. The product was also recognized for its cardboard packaging sourced from sustainably managed forests, Food Ingredients First reported. The tomato will soon be distributed in the U.S.
Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald told Food Ingredients First the new tomato is what consumers are looking for when shopping because they are tasty, healthy and convenient. He also called development of the variety "a fantastic achievement" for consumers, the company and the environment.
Syngenta has been getting lots of attention for its Yoom tomato variety ever since it debuted last summer. The company has touted its excellent yield in pilot trials and its superior shelf life. The Switzerland-based ag-tech company said the tomato's genetics are easily adapted to the modern greenhouse environment.
This recent award is likely to push Yoom's profile higher just as its distribution expands to the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and other countries outside Europe. The tomato is distinctive looking due to its purple color, which Syngenta said comes from high concentrations of the antixoxidants anthocyanin and carotenoids. The company said the variety contains large amounts of vitamin C, magnesium and potassium — all of which could appeal to its target consumer looking for healthy and tasty fresh produce.
Besides boosting the company's sales and enhancing its product development reputation, successfully introducing new fruit and vegetable varieties could better position Syngenta for its planned IPO. CEO Erik Fyrwald told Bloomberg Markets in October the company expects to get there in the next 2.5 years — after it talks to banks and when market conditions are right and its performance is strong.
At the same time, Fyrwald announced the company would invest $2 billion in "breakthrough technologies" to help farmers deal with climate change and the impacts of heat, drought and flooding. Such moves could enhance its sustainability credentials as consumers begin to pay more attention to the connection between climate and their food supply.
Syngenta was acquired by state-owned ChemChina in 2016 in a $43 billion deal that Fortune called "China's biggest foreign takeover to date." According to Reuters, Chinese ownership gives the company an advantage in developing genetically modified crops in that country since foreign companies are not allowed to do so even in joint ventures.
Meanwhile, Syngenta is gaining a track record for innovations. The international award for the Yoom tomato is the second for one of its products. The company won previously in 2012 for a seedless red snack pepper variety called Angello that also comes in yellow and orange. Colors can be just as important to consumers as flavors, so combining the two in a new tomato variety could be a smart move for the global seed company.
Other tomato developments in the works include snack-sized colorful varieties created by a Cornell University associate professor of plant breeding and genetics, research into using genome engineering techniques to produce in tomatoes the same elements that make chili peppers hot, and gene-edited tomato plants grown in compact bunches in small areas.