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Nicolas Stevens, Better3fruit: “Bright is the trend”

The long search for the apple of the future

Breeding apples is a long-term process that takes up to about fifteen years. Better3fruit has started in the year 2000, and presents one or two new varieties each year, selected from the 35,000 varieties with which the whole process starts. Director Nicolas Stevens believes transparency is important. “Everyone from the sector is welcome to take a look at our apples and taste them, and we see a great deal of interest in that. You need to find the right balance between sharing information and protecting your product. Our challenge for the coming years is to get people throughout the chain in touch with each other, and we hope constructive connections will thus emerge. Preferably with one of our varieties, of course,” he says, laughing.

Director Nicolas Stevens.

Apple goes ‘out’
After fifteen years, it’s time to show the new apple variety to the people outside Better3fruit. “A trial period will then follow, with the apple being tasted and looked at by various parties. We then actively look for reactions from the market, and process the test reports. More and more, we’re trying to involve the entire chain. It used to be very traditional for the tree grower to go to his clients with a new variety. We focus on contact with everyone: tree nurseries, producers, cooperatives, traders, retailer and the consumer.”

The interested parties
Of course it differs for each party what they think is important in an apple. “All links in the chain have their own ‘demands’, and we like to think along with everyone. For instance, the tree grower would like the tree to be easily propagated. The grower wants a fast production, preferably as resistant as possible, and for him it would be great if all the apples are ripe at the same time. Another plus is that the fruits are uniform in size. The supermarket specifically requires something visually attractive, so that they don’t have to do too much promotion. Good shelf life is also important for a retailer. The consumer wants something tasty. The latter is of course a bit more difficult to determine, but there are trends. For instance, crunchy and crisp is appreciated by a majority of people. In addition, sweet is becoming more dominant compared to sour. Colour intensity is also becoming more important. Bright is all the trend nowadays, and it will remain that way for some time.”

It’s not just the taste or the looks that will change in the future, other things are also becoming more important. “We believe traditional chemicals in the food chain will come under more and more pressure. Better3fruit responds to that by making varieties more resistant and tolerant. In addition, science is also working on processes with which, over time, they’ll know how bacteria can be stopped without a chemical process. This development is coming from several sides, and there will be ways to avoid chemical processes we don’t even know exist yet.” It’s possible that China will influence the apple market in the future as well. “About half of all apple production takes place there. It’s a market we don’t know much about yet, but we will investigate it further.”

More information:
Better 3 Fruit
Nicolas Stevens
Steenberg 36
B-3202 Rillaar
+32 (0)16 24 16 10

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