New Zealand growers are expecting more volumes of Ambrosia apples this year, as the variety's year-on-year growth continues.
Heartland Group is responsible for marketing the brand and General Manager Sales & Marketing, Brendon Osborn says with the cool summer, the colour of the Ambrosia in general is looking very good.
"Based on what we have learnt over the past few years we have changed some of the production processes to improve the quality and initial results are very pleasing, as arrival quality has improved and this year Ambrosia is firmer and slightly sweeter," he said. "The overwhelming demand we have for Ambrosia has been outstanding both domestically and internationally. Volumes will continue to increase in the coming years as the new planting programmes that have been happening here over the past five years start to reach full production and the final trees go in the ground over the next couple of years. The demand to plant Ambrosia has also been overwhelming as growers realise that it is a truly wonderful apple to eat."
Like most businesses globally, coronavirus had a dramatic impact on production and sales, but Mr Osborn admits that luckily growers and company staff were able to get through the apple harvest without too much impact on the fruit quality.
"The need to keep staff distanced from each other in the Packhouse resulted in lower production and increased in costs," he said. "Now that NZ has returned to Level 1 and have had no new cases since 22 May the restrictions have been removed and Packhouse production is back to normal. Since the start of March and as most exporters have experienced, the demand in Asia varied from slow to non-existent depending on the country, while retail demand globally was sporadic. Overall, the virus has made consumers review what they are eating and as apples are extremely healthy food item hopefully this will help increase consumption."
Ambrosia's harvest starts towards the end of the Royal Gala harvest and this year, and this year Ambrosia is Heartlands biggest apple variety by volume, ahead of Mariri Red (eve™) and Royal Gala.
"For Heartland, we are selling Ambrosia throughout Asia, Canada and NZ,” Mr Osborn said. “The markets in Asia that are currently showing the greatest level of growth are China, Vietnam and Thailand, even this year with the slowdown due to Coronavirus. Thailand and Vietnam were early adopters of the Ambrosia eating experience and these two countries have shown outstanding growth in recent years led by key retailers across Vietnam and also by Central Foods in Thailand. Outside of Asia, we are also experiencing huge demand in Canada where the variety originated from. Fresh New Zealand Ambrosia has great crispness and similar appearance and flavour to Canadian Ambrosia and therefore fills a gap in the Canadian market between the end of one Canadian harvest and the start of the next. Heartland first sold Ambrosia in NZ in 2008 and the demand here has been growing every year. Currently, we are able to supply this market for about 8 months, and every year we try to go longer but unfortunately the demand increases and we run out of fruit."
Heartland will have a total of 10 Ambrosia growers when planting is completed and this small number of growers allows greater control over the production chain to ensure that a consistently superior eating apple is produced.
"With the large range of new varieties available that will be produced globally in the next few years it is critical that for any apple variety to survive a consistent apple-eating experience is delivered to the customer," Mr Osborn said. "With Ambrosia, we are planning to manage this through a small number of superior growers and having control over postharvest production processes."
One of the main selling characteristics of apple, according to Mr Osborn is the bi-colour appearance, which helps it to stand out on the shelf from the "swarm of block red apples" that are currently available.
"Ambrosia is a standout eating apple with an amazing flavour and sweetness mix which has made it a favourite throughout the world, along with its crisp texture. We have to remember that Ambrosia is a bi-colour apple and therefore has a crisp light green background colour and a nice vibrant red foreground colour. NZ Ambrosia also has a strong red stripe throughout."