Flandria® tomato segmentation 2015
KO criteria for even greater objectivity

Intensive utility value surveys and practical experience remain the basis for the segmentation of Flandria tomatoes. What is new is that minimal criteria for the quality aspects guarantee an even more objective decision for the segmentation. Flavour is also an important selling point.

A solid basis for the trade
This year's Flandria tomato segmentation once again offers the trade 'a tomato for everyone'. The 2015 segmentation also examines new varieties and rates them in terms of cultivation, quality and taste properties. The basis for the variety distribution is traditionally the utility value survey which is carried out at the experimental centres (*). This procedure results in a wide range with a scale of flavours, colours, sizes and shapes.
From the commercial point of view, it is very important to have uniform segments. Buyers want to be sure that they are getting the same product each time when they opt for a particular segment. The LAVA auction cooperative ensures that the number of varieties within a segment remains limited. It chooses only those varieties which are very comparable in terms of quality and appearance, in order to guarantee a homogeneous product within a segment, regardless of which farm they come from. This guarantee forms a solid basis for the trade.

Working with KO criteria
One innovation is that the variety list for the 2015 segmentation has been drawn up by applying minimum criteria for the quality aspects of the new tomato varieties. This is a more objective approach to determining whether or not a particular variety qualifies for inclusion in a particular segment. To do this, a system of KO (knock-out) criteria has been devised. What does it include? Every variety must achieve a minimum score by reference to the parameters which are of importance for a particular segment. These parameters are colour, hardness, green parts, production, shrinkage tears, the inspectors' assessment and so on, but also taste. This has led to an even more objective decision on the segmentation.

Taste is an important criterion
In the case of the Elite segment (fine cluster tomatoes), there has been a consistent focus in recent years on taste as an extra criterion in deciding whether or not a particular variety should be admitted. Varieties whose colour, hardness, shape and so on perfectly match the characteristics for the segment, but which do not score highly enough on taste, are not admitted.
Another innovation is that the other segments also have to achieve a minimum taste score, on the basis of a number of measurements and assessments. Firstly, all the Brix measurements gathered at the experimental centres and the VCBT are collated. Then all existing and new varieties are subjected to a taste test by a consumer panel. Only those varieties with a high Brix value and a good score from the panel will be considered for inclusion in the segment.

Great attention to colour
The results of surveys indicate that our consumers prefer deep red, glossy fruits; accordingly, colour measurements using a Minolta colour meter have been carried out for years now to determine which colour type the fruits belong to. Here, too, the taste panel has an important role to play. If consumers find a tomato too pale or too red, and this is confirmed by the colour measurements, that particular variety will not qualify for a segment.

A tomato can also be too hard
The hardness of tomatoes has long been central in the assessment process. Hardness is an important indicator of good keeping properties. However, consumers in the taste tests do sometimes find a tomato to be too hard. So this year, a minimum hardness value has been brought in as a KO criterion, and fruits which are too hard are knocked out of the segmentation.

Source: Flandria® report 2014

(*) The utility value surveys for tomatoes are carried out by the Experimental Station for Vegetable Cultivation (PSKW, Sint-Katelijne-Waver), the Hoogstraten Experimental Centre (PCH, Meerle), the East Flanders Provincial Experimental Centre for Vegetable Cultivation (PCG, Kruishoutem) and the Flanders Centre of Postharvest Technology (VCBT, Heverlee).

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