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Most tomatoes in the mid 1990s were quite pale, with a green/tart flavour. The large variation made it impossible to know what you came home with, so the only competitive factor was price.

The Norwegians ate very few tomatoes

“A project in cooperation with BAMA and Gartnerhallen started the development we have seen in tomato varieties and tastes over the last 25 years. We characterized the tomato market in Norway and found that almost 70 percent of the range consisted of tomatoes that nobody liked very much”, says senior researcher Einar Risvik of Nofima. He was responsible for the project.

It was no wonder that the sale of tomatoes in Norway was very low. A segmentation study, where information were collected, related to taste, quality, consumer preferences , price sensitivity and buying behaviour, made it possible to understand the market better – and to divide the consumers and tomatoes into appropriate segments.

“We started by showing that different types of tomatoes have different roles in the diet. Those who use tomatoes mainly in salads, wish that they are sweet and firm. Those who use tomatoes when cooking their dinner, wish that they are large, soft and have a lot of umami taste”, says Risvik.

Consumers preference measured directly in the field

In order to identify tomatoes with a high liking, the researchers took instruments into the tomato fields to conduct research there, and modelled preference for the segments directly from these data.

“We developed a tool that made it possible to use instruments that measured the sweetness and consistency of tomatoes in the field. This allowed us to measure consumer preferences in a direct manner”, says Risvik.

Happier and more willing to pay

Nowadays, the spectrum of tomato variety has exploded. Norwegians eat many more tomatoes and are willing to pay a much higher prices. The relationship is simple, as the more the flavour lives up to expectations, the more people are willing to pay. In addition, the use of tomatoes has expanded.

“At that time, the annual tomato sales in Norway amounted to around 200 million NOK, now it is approaching one billion”, concludes Risvik.

25 years ago, annual tomato sales in Norway were around 200 million NOK. Now it is approaching one billion NOK.