IKYGAI – A new consumer umbrella brand

“החשש שלנו הוא שניזרק גם מרוסיה”
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Copyright belongs to Monique Klaare

Interview with Mr. Gianni Bernardotto, CEO – Top Seeds International, Ltd.

Top Seeds arrived at Fruit Logistica Berlin for their second year ready to launch “IKYGAI – a new brand they’ve developed over the past 12 months”. Company reps met with traders and retail chains at the Show, to present the new products.
Top Seeds’ CEO Gianni Bernardotto says that brand development used to be different, as developers of new varieties we to focus from one part of the chain to another: in the 80’s, developers used to focus on growers’  emands, later focusing on the traders who expected disease resistance, and in the 21st century developers have tried to satisfy the retailers’ desire, who expected long shelf-life. The current development process of the IKYGAI brand is almost totally aimed at the end consumer.

So what’s the story of this brand?
The goal of creating this new brand is to provide “a new experience for the end consumer,” meaning better flavor, higher nutritional values, higher amounts of lycopene, betacarotene and a more generous amount of Vitamin C, compared to other tomatoes. “Under the IKYGAI umbrella, we’ve included varieties that commune with color, taste and higher nutritional values than those in the market,” says Gianni, “and of course, we haven’t short changed other traits, like long shelflife.”
To create this experience for the consumer, Top Seeds availed themselves of a company that employs professional tasters who receive different varieties for tasting, after which they decide whether the variety is fit to consumer exoectations. But beyond that, they set an exact characteristic of the product that will fit the consumer and reward him with the experience.

What made Top Seeds search for harmony with the consumer?
The main reason, says Gianni, is heavy market competition. Nowadays, the multiple varieties in the market cause the consumer to be more sensitive to product type, color and taste, who then develops many expectations, so our lives as developers are more difficult. But competition for the consumer’s interest and taste increases our opportunities. Having said that, the brand building was done after extensive market research involving sensory panels and tasting tests with end consumers. Gianni thinks that discovering the consumer’s taste enables the company to create better products that will lead the consumer to reorder. To reach this type of understanding, the company had to go through a seven-year long process, based on changing their way of thinking and changing the R&D process for new product development. The decision-making process changed: on top of focusing on crop yield and seed/plant resistance, the company’s staff included in their focus also the “consumer’s experience.”
As noted, by contrast with the usual new product development process, where the end consumer was least important, the new process focusing on the consumer and his preferences, now starts right from the beginning.
Nevertheless, Gianni emphasizes, “we can’t find a perfect variety the best variety is one that satisfies all exclusive partners in the value chain: growers, distributors, retail chains and consumers. Moreover, it’s obvious that throughout the process the parties need to compromise. As an example of what occurs in this process, Mr. Bernardotto offers a case from his early days in the tomato sector in Sicily, when demand for cherry tomatoes was 9% of the market, but today demand for these tomatoes in Sicily is 65%. Since demand has increased, choices have expanded accordingly, so today there are different sizes, colors and shapes of cherry tomatoes.
Currently, the IKYGAI brand name includes a series of products: orange tomatoes and peppers, which share high nutritional values. Development of varieties is done at Moshav Sharona in Israel by a high professional development team , where they pay attention to the flavor while maintaining a balance between peel thickness and the flavor within, and have succeeded in creating an orange pepper that’s not too thick, and when it’s cooked becomes very soft and tasty. Also produced were the very specially flavored Yuka and Umamai tomatoes. Later on the brand is expected to develop into more vegetable varieties that maintain the same brand values םכ of taste, high quality, nutritional values.
I asked what IKYGAI means, and Gianni answered that it comes from a Japanese word for harmony, and indeed, the people at Top Seeds see how different aspects of the product grow from the desire to give meaning and purpose to food grow harmony and provide harmony.
Gianni notes that the future holds opportunities to introduce this brand in many countries. Even in Japan there is interest in the brand, and the company team is negotiating with 25 marketing locations.