Rik Connor - Fruition

English apples on sale in Dubai

Last year UK company Worldwide Fruit, an international fruit importer and distributor exported their first Envy apples to Singapore.

This year the company are exporting English fruit through Waitrose to stores in Dubai. The supermarket recently had a Celebration of English Fruit in the UK which has been replicated in Dubai.

Display of English topfruit at Waitrose Dubai

"We will have 7 or 8 English varieties of apples on sale in Dubai, but we will be looking at the sizing of the crop, as it is the size which counts when exporting to this market. This year Envy sizes seem to be smaller than last year," explains Rik Connor, Unit Business Manager for Fruition.

Among the British grown apple varieties exported to Dubai are Delbard Estivale, Red Windsor, Galmac, within the 'Best of British' range of Apples and Pears; a mixture of traditional and new English varieties, including Blenheim Orange, Ashmeads Kernel, Louise Bonne of Jersey pear, Concorde and Conference pears, the company will be looking at exporting Bramley apples in the future.

According to Connor exports started in the first week of September and a total of 14 varieties will be sent.

"Waitrose in Dubai is in partnership with Spinneys and the English fruit is popular with the expats. It is still a bit early to tell how the locals will take to the English varieties," said Connor. "The fruit has to be in there first to see how consumers react, but they are still buying it which is a good sign."

On the UK market, reports are of a record crop, but this is only in some varieties such Breaburn, where as the Bramely crop is down, but overall the tonnage is about the same.

According to Connor the UK retailers are already offering heavy discounts so it is not looking much different to last year at the moment.

Displays of discounted English topfruit at Waitrose UK

"It is always a fine balance, just now with this mild weather stonefruit and softfruit are still selling strongly so total fruit sales are good, but this is affecting apple sales. The discounts are to try and move things along. The late harvest has also not helped because if you have a late harvest it is difficult to get people to buy apples, where as with an early harvest people start buying it in August and you can have a very strong September and October. With the record Braeburn crop being harvested we will be selling 10% more every week which is why there will be promotions, it is supply vs demand," said Connor.

As for the question of delaying import until the English apples are done, Connor explains that it is a question of quality, "You can't just keep selling English apples in May just because they are there, both the retailers and consumers want consistent fruit, they will not accept less quality, but if the fruit is still delivering then we will delay imports."

Stuart Clark, agronomist at Worldwide Fruit, said that there are many new varieties coming online from the Fruition trial plots, such as Smitten apples, Crimson Crisp apples and Velvetine Pears to mention a few.

"They are not really in commercial volumes yet though, another great new variety is Daliclass and every year we are getting more and more volume, but we need this time to access the durability as well as the taste of the new varieties, it must be right before it goes on the market."

Stuart Clark and Rik Connor at The National Fruit Show 2015

Connor explains that there are a lot of new varieties out there so they need to be sure they are choosing the right ones and there are some really interesting things in the pipeline.

Topfruit is one of the only fruit categories where the consumer will buy per variety and it is very hard to get them to buy something new as they tend to stick to a known variety such as a Gala or a Granny Smith, explained Connor.

"This is where Worldwide Fruit comes in, we want to educate the consumer by explaining that the Jazz, for example, is a cross between Breaburn and Gala. Jazz has been one of the most successful new varieties over the last 15 years because we heavily pushed it from the start, in some retailers it is 15% of our sales. You have to give people a reason to change from a familiar variety."

Technology could prolong the English apple season, with DCA stores companies can in theory, store apples for longer without loosing the quality, in fact Bramley are already available for 12 months. Gala and Jazz can be stored for up to 10 months but again it comes down to consistency and quality which is why Worldwide Fruit imports from the Southern Hemisphere.

For more information:
Rik Connor
Email: rik.connor@fruitiongp.co.uk

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