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'Right choices' needed to relaunch apple production

Among the various topics discussed during the "La Mela nel Mondo" convention at Interpoma, one of the most interesting was that Alto Adige apple producers are confident about their future. "I share their optimism, but it must be supported by the right choices. We must not neglect the EU market," explained Helwig Schwartau.
Helwig Schwartau at Interpoma.

Schwartau's words could also mean that often we know a lot about consumers far away (who our produce cannot reach) but we only know very little about consumers nearby. "We often ask ourselves why the younger generations do not eat apples when, actually, they eat more fruit than other people, especially young women." 

The audience during the "La Mela nel Mondo" convention.

The times are changing and so are consumption habits. Families are smaller, thus new packaging formats are required. "The segment up to 750 gr has doubled, that between 750 gr and one kg has grown, while bigger formats have dropped. The paradox is that, the smaller the packets, the higher their cost, as they need more processing."

"In Germany, in 2008, people focused firstly on price, then on quality. Now they are doing the opposite. The situation is similar in other European countries, as modern consumers are willing to spend more for a product of a higher quality. "Pink Lady┬« managed to stand out on the market with a brand renowned for its quality. We cannot afford to let down our consumers, and club apples are perfect." 

According to Schwartau, a similar road to that of exotic fruit (mangoes, papayas and avocados) must be taken. It used to be imported under-ripe via sea and left to ripen near the sales market, but results were not consistent and quality wasn't very good. Fruit is now imported ripe by air and consumption has increased regardless of the prices. One of the problems is, though, "that there are too many apples in the EU and useless low-quality produce can also be found on the market."

Gerhard Dichgans, VOG Director, acting as moderator during the "La Mela nel Mondo" convention.

In all this, variety is a rather important element as the market is segmented precisely according to apple varieties. Consumer preferences have changed in the past few years. "Golden Delicious sales have dropped and so will those of Jonagold. There are also excessive volumes of Idared in Europe, which nobody wants anymore - Poland has 800 thousand tons in refrigerated units, but not even the locals want them. Consumers prefer bi-coloured apples now."
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