Italy: Saturn peaches entirely different from traditional ones

It's clear how traditional peaches are losing their appeal to Italian consumers, however Saturn peaches continue to do well. FreshPlaza has talked about it with Marco Eleuteri, a leading peach producer.

"The problem is that there are too many traditional peaches with various aromas. Saturn peaches are different because they have a uniform flavour. They are sub-acidic and generally white. The Brix level is generally medium-high, which is why producers go back to buying them." 

"Saturn" peaches by Eleuteri.

Eleuteri works mainly in the Marche region, where he owns around 70 hectares. "Our orchards are all covered so as to protect them against weather events. Saturn peaches are in fact a very delicate fruit, and we have a warehouse dedicated entirely to the processing of this fruit."

Despite Italy having been the first to develop a few promising varieties years ago, the Saturn peach market is currently dominated by Spain. Eleuteri refers that varietal renewal and improvement in Spain (and also in France) are much more advanced than in Italy.

"There is no comparison. We're basically the only company that is investing to introduce tastier varieties. Often, the most interesting ones come from France or Spain. The latter destines a lot of resources and land to experimentation. Just think that, in Murcia, there is an experimental company that owns 300 hectares of Saturn peaches alone."

"However, the Spaniards think in large volumes, meaning that prices are not that profitable. Favouring yields per hectare or quantity can damage a product that is genetically favoured thanks to its quality. We instead focused on developing a niche product that can be immediately distinguished and appreciated by consumers. We are honoured the Catalonia Department for Agriculture chose us as a case study."

Marco Eleuteri

Eleuteri is also considering hundreds of crossbreeds to improve Saturn peach varieties. "No crossbreed has been successful so far, as the time-frame is very long. We need to be patient and, what is more, when new varieties are imported to Italy, they need to be observed for at least 4-5 years to make sure they adapt to our soil and weather conditions. It's useless to complain that a variety doesn't perform well when it was developed elsewhere."

Eleuteri's Saturn peach supply is currently below demand on the domestic market. "It's one of the reasons why we can't export. The Italian market is a net importer of Saturn peaches. For the time being, it's better to focus on the domestic market."

As regards flat nectarines, the segment is still very small in both Italy and Spain. "It's difficult to obtain continuity and these peaches only represent 5% of the entire flat peach segment. France and Spain are focusing their research on this segment, and we are starting up a project with the University of Ancona and the Spanish Institute of Food Research and Technology (IRTA)."

The next campaign is starting. "Production in Marche started this week with small quantities and will liven up in a couple of weeks' time, ending around 15th/20th August. We're not expecting lower volumes for 2018 as we registered the only losses in the early segment. The season should be in line with the previous ones." 

Azienda Agricola Eleuteri is part of OP Armonia.

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