That improved tomato might not be too far away, says Omar Diaz, Seminis Vegetable Seeds. In fact, it could come with introduction of a seedless tomato variety. Something about the seed deterioration in currently available commercial tomatoes makes the fruit tasteless, he said.

The push for a better tomato is part of new direction for Seminis, Diaz told members of the Texas Seed Trade Association at their annual meeting in Dallas recently. “We’ll improve profit potential with “value-added seed.”

Historically, seed company breeding efforts attempted to improve on-farm yield, shipping qualities, or shelf life. Disease and insect resistance were part of the old formula, as well, but those efforts, too, primarily helped increase or protect yield and quality.

“We still see opportunity for growth in those areas,” Diaz said, “but potential profit increases are small. Our new focus will be up the food chain, to retail customers. “We’ll consider things such as shelf-life, consistent supply and uniformity. But we’ll also identify what customers want and try to provide improved flavor, convenience, better nutrition, new colors and novelties.”

He showed examples of purple, maroon and white carrots and a purple cauliflower. He also displayed photos of miniature seedless watermelons, small cantaloupes and bell peppers in various colors that are considerably smaller than traditional varieties. A red sweet corn is also on the list as is that seedless, better tasting tomato.

Downsized fruit and vegetables, Diaz said, allow consumers to buy in amounts they’ll consume with one meal or for one snack. “It’s more convenient,” he said.

“We’re also looking for ways to improve products by adding more anti-oxidants and by producing plants with neutriceutical values.

Developing these value-added seed, Diaz said, requires both traditional breeding programs and biotechnology.

Diaz said some of the company’s new products could begin as niche markets. “But sometimes a niche becomes a best seller,” he said.

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com