Renowned for their high quality, 25% of French tomatoes are exported

04-08-2016 Tomate française, fruits et légumes françaises
Logo France Bon appétit

Ribbed, on the vine, round, cocktail, cherry or plum, French tomatoes are packed full of flavour and are proving a hit in exports markets.

Make no mistake French tomatoes are highly regarded in foreign markets. The “made in France” label reassures importers, who recognise quality when they see it. France has been producing tomatoes since the 16th century in almost every region across the country, largely due to its favourable climate, or in recent years to the introduction of greenhouse cultivation methods.  Either way, “French tomatoes are synonymous with healthy eating and being pesticide-free,” explains Anne-Lise Gouriou, product manager at Savéol, the leading French producer-exporter of French tomatoes. For regions in France that grow tomatoes, it is also an important driver of the local economy.  Brittany (33%), Provence Cotes d’Azur (21%) and Pays de la Loire (15%) make up the lion’s share of some 602,000 tonnes of tomatoes produced in France (Source Agreste, 2009-2014).

Global tomato production continues to grow steadily, increasing from 64m tonnes in 1988 to its current level of more than 100m tonnes, of which 30m tonnes are used in processing. Global production has increased by 35% over the last decade and can be broken down as follows: Asia 45%, Europe 22%. Africa 12%, North America 11%, South and Central America 8%.   France is Europe’s 5th largest producer and every year exports 25% of its production (Source Agreste).

While summer is synonymous with soaring temperatures and sunshine, tomato consumption continues to boom.  Tomatoes are in fact the most consumed vegetable in France all year round.  While botanically a fruit and the seed of the vine, in the common language of the people, and for statistical purposes, tomatoes are classed as vegetables.

Savéol, Breton expertise

The Savéol cooperative takes the lead in tomato production and sales in France – with many years of success under its belt. The company owes this success to a number of factors, not least the decision to eliminate the use of pesticides. “We are also the only cooperative in Europe to have an insect farm on site, in line with the cooperative’s strategic commitment to sustainable organic production” underlines Anne-Lise Gouriou.

French tomatoes

Savéol produces 30 varieties of tomato varying enormously in both appearance and taste. This level of production is strictly monitored, which is the means to achieving various quality certificates and labels and boosting the cooperative’s excellent reputation in the process. Our approach focuses on sustainable development and prioritising fruit quality.

We allow the fruit to reach optimum ripeness before picking, and harvesting is carried out by hand,” explains Anne-Lise Gouriou.

The cooperative also operates a CSR programme focusing on recycling waste, reducing water wastage and energy consumption. Exports are testament to the quality of Savéol’s produce with a growing increase in sales. Germany is the major importer accounting for almost 90% of volumes sold in France, and also Spain, England, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Denmark.  Key exports tend to focus on novelty products such as cocktail and cherry tomatoes. Older heirloom varieties, notably the more fragile varieties such as Valentino, are rarely exported. And demand will vary according to different cultures and consumption trends. While Germany is a key proponent of cocktail or the plum shaped “Coeur de pigeon” varietal, Italy errs more towards beef tomatoes and the Torino variety and Spain to tomatoes on the vine and beef tomatoes.  Tomatoes in an array of colours may be popular in England, but are overlooked in Germany for the more classic red tomatoes.

Tomate française, fruits et légumes françaises
Tomate française, fruits et légumes françaises

 As testament to Savéol’s dynamic approach, it swooped the Fresh Export “vegetables” prize in 2012, which was presented at the Interfel stand at Fruit Logistica.

For more information: