NZ: The apple varieties putting the focus back into taste

As Royal Gala apples took off in the 1980’s, New Zealand orchardist Bill Lynch noticed that visual appeal became more important to growers than taste - so he set about changing that.

While Fashion Foods Ltd is yet to commercialise, the company will undertake final marketing trials on two new varieties that were selected specifically to recover notable flavour loss.

"Totally unconvinced by the lesser eating experience we set about and propagated about 1000 variants of the old Heritage Gala," Mr Lynch said. "Strong reliance was placed that the inherent genetics of the Cox's Orange Pippin varieties complex flavours would provide what we were after. The proof was in the eating, and from many and varied options were tasted and evaluated.



The varieties known as Berica and Mondaju eventually emerged victorious. Several other finalists with excellent flavours and impressive stripes or flecks failed to make it due to lack of distinction from Royal Gala, although still visually appealing. Mr Lynch says both successful varieties have distinctly different tastes.

"Berica's flavour is very much a strong real old 'appley' walk down memory lane, revisiting memories of the wonderful 1960's strong flavours and aromas of the now practically extinct "Heritage Gala" variety that was lost to the superior looks of the less flavoursome Royal Gala mutations emerging in the 1980's and 90's," he said. "The Berica eating experience impacts with a strong tangy flavour sweet forward taste, followed by a slightly acid pleasant after-taste that lingers pleasantly for hours. Mondaju has a pleasant mid-range taste of its own that has wide appeal. It's a sweet new taste of its own, and like its close relation Berica has a mild acidic after-taste that lingers for hours."

Fashion Foods are the owners of the plant material and prepared brands and have 10,000 trees in a trial on their own orchards, and some test trees in other interested geographical locations. Having now completed exhaustive growing trials over a long time the plan is to seek suitable global partners throughout the year and be ready to license production and marketing, as production volume rises over the next year or two.

"Our consumer trials in NZ and China have been overwhelming positive," Mr Lynch said. "The distinctive visual appearance standing out as a point of difference has been a definite attraction, and this is followed by a pleasant eating experience to compliment the expectation. This has been commercially insightful. From these marketing trials we have no doubt that properly managed by the right partners these two infants will grow to become global stars."



The new varieties are harvested ahead of Royal Gala, and an 80 per cent bright forward colour set in this year's trial was easily achieved. Both varieties have discreet under-line stripe but block out to a pink/orange in Berica a pink/red in Mondaju. Berica has an attractive random flecking and Mondaju shows more lentical spots.

They have been decades in the making, but worth every moment, according to Mr Lynch, who says time has never been an issue.

"When you're a one man band and a simple selection decision takes a minimum of 3 y ears there's not much choice," he said. "It's the achievement of a long aspired goal to create and deliver what our orchardist son Dan calls his 'dream apple'. It's taken a long time for sure to get to the starting line in order to be confident we've got all aspects right and can deliver something of distinction and special value commercially. Many new varieties have been associated with ongoing grower challenges that were not properly evaluated or exposed because of rushed commercial pressures for hasty launches. We did not want to repeat such a pathway and have conducted robust growing and production, harvest, post-harvest, storage and shipping and market trials."



He adds that the lengthy process in ensuring a quality product was important in creating a point of difference in the apple market, as there is a worrying plague of new apple names and varieties constantly popping up.

"Some of them potentially will become counter-productive to the pipfruit category, unless they deliver an improved eating experience and enhanced attractiveness," he said. "The never ending array of mutations being commercialized with cute or trendy names risks consumer backlash from distrust if the promoted "new" experiences are no improvement, or even worse, are of lesser eating quality. Although troubled by industry risks associated, we identify the plague of new varieties as presenting an inviting opportunity if our trials to date deliver superior attributes."

But it is not just the taste and looks that these new varieties could possess, with Fashion Foods believing there is a significant untapped opportunity in terms of pipfruit potentially being the ultimate snack food.

"To accomplish and exploit this, the mobility, convenience, availability, nutrients, marketing and cost advantages need to be actively and attractively enhanced by delivering an appealing competitive eating experience," Mr Lynch said. "Would think it should be easy with a global obesity epidemic raging, time stressed consumers and dietary imbalances. Our goal of being instrumental in demoting junk food by providing an attractive superior healthy alternative snack food, would be the ultimate satisfaction of our efforts."


For more information:
Bill Lynch
Fashion Foods Ltd
Phone: +64 3 544 2708
fashion.foods@clear.net.nz
www.fashionfoods.nz

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