Over the past century, leaders and team members at Tokita have continually innovated in vegetable variety development and seed production, with much learning along the way. This is just one story of many that demonstrate this effort – with a delicious outcome.
Tokita's First Visit to the US
In 1965, the United States was a global leader in advanced methods of seed production and distribution. Tokita Seed Company’s then President and current Chairman Mr. Tsutomu Tokita attended an event focused on American seed innovations at the US Trade Center in Japan. He was intrigued by the American innovations in topics such as canned lettuce seed, and decided to take a trip there himself.
He landed in California in 1975. His first visit was to a seed company, where he learned about their seed processing facility, quality control system, packing, and seed production.
He then traveled to a produce distributor based in Los Angeles. The president of the company introduced Mr. Tokita to the LA City Market and mentored him on the fresh produce business in the US. It was at there that Mr. Tokita came across his first cherry tomato.
Mr. Tokita was convinced that the cherry tomato would become popular in Japan. Upon his return, he began collecting breeding materials to produce a cherry tomato adapted to the local climate. It took 9 years for the plant breeder to develop the first cherry tomato in Japan.
The first variety was introduced in 1984 and was named “Suncherry”. It was followed by “Suncherry RB” and “Super Suncherry”. These were well-received and quickly became popular, even with young children. Suncherry was offered as part of in-flight meals by airline companies. In 1990, the even sweeter “Suncherry Extra” was introduced to the market, and Tokita Seed’s market share of cherry tomato in Japan hit its highest mark of 80%.
This is of course all quite recent history. Prior to 1984, the tomatoes in Japan were limited to slicers, and the majority were quite acidic and harvested young to prevent damage in transport. They were not as easy to love as they are today.
Around this time, the now commonly found pink slicer tomatoes began to proliferate in Japan as well. These, combined with the new and exciting cherry tomatoes, changed the Japanese tomato market forever.
While continuing to improve the flavor and productivity of red cherries, the breeders also explored other colors, leading to the wide array of tomatoes that Tokita now offers.