The effort taps into varieties developed by the company’s breeders in Japan and uses those traits to breed varieties suited to North American growing conditions, Nerli said.
Sweet Hearts, an oval red grape, was one of the first introductions. Since then, Sakata has bred a host of round and oval red grape tomatoes that include Amai, Bellastar, Oribustar, Sweet Elite, Sweet Mojo and Sweet Zen. Complementing the red types are yellow grapes Solid Gold and Sweet Canary.
Overall, Nerli said consumption of specialty tomatoes continues to grow as consumers seek out new and different produce items.
The market for cherry tomatoes had been stagnant for the past four or five years but appears to have rebounded the past one to two years, she said.
“I think there wasn’t a good flavor profile in the cherries that was available,” Nerli said. “As the flavor profiles are improving, the consumers start trying them and then they start seeking them out.”
Sakata’s cherry tomato line includes the red Sweet Chelsea and Sweet Million, the yellow Sweet Gold, the orange Oranjestar and the pink Sweet Treats.