Seed World

U.S. Gardeners Rush To Snap Up Purple Tomatoes Pioneered In Norfolk

A genetically modified purple tomato first produced by Norfolk scientists nearly two decades ago has been enthusiastically adopted by home gardeners after it was made available for purchase in the United States, according to a press release

The high-anthocyanin purple tomato seeds experienced robust demand, with over 1,200 packets sold within 48 hours of their launch and a total of 9,600 sold in the initial week.

Norfolk Healthy Produce, a subsidiary of Norfolk Plant Sciences established by Professor Cathie Martin FRS and Professor Jonathan Jones FRS, leading scientists from Norwich Research Park, introduced their striking new product on February 6.

The commercial release of their inaugural product, purple tomato seeds priced at $20 per pack, signifies a significant milestone in the extensive journey led by Professor Martin, a group leader at the John Innes Centre. Professor Martin initially introduced the concept of the purple tomato in a groundbreaking scientific paper published in 2008.

“Ever since we produced that innovation nearly two decades ago, it has been my wish that gardeners could grow and enjoy purple tomatoes and share in the health-giving compounds and striking beauty of the fruit. It is so exciting that gardeners in the USA are seizing the opportunity to grow them in 2024,” Martin said.  

The new tomato variety harbors purple antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which are beneficial nutrients also present in blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant. Anthocyanins are linked to numerous health advantages and are integral to an anti-inflammatory diet.

“Since their launch demand for the purple tomato seeds has been remarkable, showing just how many people are interested,” Jones said. “The beauty of this innovation is not just the gorgeous, anthocyanin packed product, but also that it enables those disinclined to adopt it to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’.” 

The release notes that because they carry two genes from an edible flower (snapdragon) that act specifically in the fruit, Norfolk Healthy Produce’s tomatoes are the only varieties that have purple antioxidants in both the flesh and the skin.  

We are thrilled to offer these first-of-a-kind seeds to home gardeners,” said Nathan Pumplin, CEO of Norfolk Healthy Produce, said. “Our tomato is just a tomato – you can grow it in your garden next to your Sun Golds and Purple Cherokees, and other favorite varieties. We share our gratitude to the thousands of fans who have expressed their interest and encouragement through our website.” 

Seeds are available at and are available only in the U.S., where the biotechnology regulatory assessment process has been completed by USDA and FDA. The first variety is an indeterminate cherry tomato (one that produces fruit throughout the season) and can be grown using standard methods. It has been bred in a way that allows home gardeners to collect seed from this year’s crop to grow next year. 

According to the company, surveys conducted with American consumers revealed that 80% expressed interest in consuming, purchasing, and cultivating the purple tomato, even with the awareness that it is bioengineered (as a genetically modified organism, or GMO). Only 5% of consumers indicated no interest.

Norfolk Healthy Produce will be launching fresh purple tomatoes into U.S. grocery stores later this year.